Tag Archives: derrick jensen

The Power of Place: A Discussion with Derrick Jensen

Interview conducted in early 2010; I wanted to repost this for all my new friends/followers because I think it’s good and very important.  I know his work and his talks inside and out, so I tried to ask him many questions that he doesn’t normally get.  For further information about him or his work, see the links on the right side of my home page (“Actions Speak Louder than Words” and a link to his website/discussion forums)

JAN SMITH: The theme of this interview is a sort of tagline for my book:  rewild the west, and all the rest.

DERRICK JENSEN: I think it’s a hugely important work.  About twenty years ago I decided to go up to the Northwest Territories.  There was a road there that was really just unbroken forest for 300 miles, and I’ve never seen anything like it before.  It was really beautiful, but it also broke my heart, because of course that used to be the whole continent.  We can say the same thing about North Africa, we can say the same thing about Europe, we can say that same thing about the near East, we can say the same thing about Iraq, and so on.  There’s a phrase for this, something baseline, about how every generation remembers what it was like when we were kids, and how much worse it’s gotten, but we don’t remember how it was when our parents were kids.  There was a study that came out a year or two ago that migratory songbird populations have collapsed by 80% in the last 40 years in a lot of populations; bobwhites, whippoorwills, and so on, and that’s horrifying and terrifying; until I realized that 40 years ago was 1968, which is 10 years after Silent Spring.  Which means that they’ve already gone down 80% in 40 years, after they’d already gone down by 80%, and in the 1920s they were down 80%.  You know, we hear about it over and over no matter where; the passenger pigeons darkening the skies for days at a time—but we’ve also heard that was how Florida was, and Louisiana.  I tell this in my talks:  does anybody know why there are no penguins in the northern hemisphere?  There were—they were called great auks, but who remembers the great auks?

I think this project is incredibly important in terms of helping us to remember that we are fighting over scraps, and we shouldn’t be.  We should be living in intact natural communities.

JS: Right.  And the fight we have to fight shouldn’t be about fighting over scraps.  We shouldn’t say, “Don’t clearcut this 50 acres,” but then say nothing about the clearcutting of 2000 acres tomorrow.  We should say, “We want it all.”  And it’s really not about us, we’re not selfish, saying “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!”  It’s that we humans—all humans—need it all, the natural world has its own rights, and the nonhumans need it all.  It’s about preserving life.

Now I want to get into this idea I’m calling the power of place.  You grew up in Colorado, right, and then moved to northern Idaho?

DJ: No, I moved from Colorado to Nevada for a couple years, then to northern Idaho, then eastern Washington, then here [Crescent City, California].

JS: Okay, so I kind of want to get a sense of why you moved to the different geographical areas in your life, and why.  There’s a lot of variation there.  Eastern Washington is high desert, which is very very different from the coastal redwood rainforest of Crescent City.  So what did you like and dislike about each area, and why did you move away to the new places?

DJ: Colorado because I finished college, and also because my father lived in Colorado, and I didn’t want to face the possibility of meeting him every time I went to the grocery store.  Also there’s way too many people.  I went to northeast Nevada because my sister lived there and I was starting up a beekeeping business, and that was a place I could find some pastures on which to put the bees.  But I got sick.  I moved to north Idaho because it was one of the prettiest places I’d ever seen.  Moved to eastern Washington because I went back to school.  And then moved to northern California because there were too many people in Spokane.  And I’d committed to living around my mom.  She wanted to live where there weren’t winters, and I wanted to live where there weren’t a lot of people.  This is what we came up with.  After I moved to Idaho I found that I’m very much a forest person; I never liked the desert, and I didn’t really like Colorado.  I have some fondness for it, but I’m very much a forest person.  I feel most comfortable there.

JS: So that place holds the most power over you.

DJ: Yeah.  And I’ve heard a lot about how we resonate with the landbases where we grew up, but in my case that wasn’t true.  Where I lived in Colorado was plains; plains are okay, but as soon as I moved to Idaho and then here I immediately felt at home.  I don’t know why.  I know when I go elsewhere it’s the same.  Like when I go to the deep south, to forests there, it’s very moving for me too.  Really forests anywhere.  I go to Los Angeles or San Diego and don’t feel at home.  I know people who absolutely love the desert and feel tremendous respect and awe and feel very much at home in the desert.  I can respect that, it’s just not me personally.

JS: So you’d feel out of place even when you went to natural areas in Spokane?

DJ: You know, Spokane is right near the edge of forests, and there were some forests right near where I lived.  It wasn’t thick forests like here; you can’t walk through these [redwood] forests, you have to go on a game trail.  In Spokane it was very open forests.

JS: After doing just a small bit of off-trail bushwacking in the forests of northern California last week, I posited that all this dark matter scientists say make up the majority of the mass in the universe might just be found somewhere in the redwood forests, they’re so dense.

DJ: Oh that’s funny.

JS: Do you think you’ll stay in northern California the rest of your life?  Do you think you’re at home and you’ll be happy staying there?

DJ: Well I’ll certainly stay the rest of my mom’s life.  I’m planning on staying here forever.  But you know, with global warming, I live at 17 feet elevation, so it could be underwater.  So I might be staying here for the rest of this forest’s life.  But we need to stop it before then.  I mean, who knows—I have no desire to leave.  But politically things are very bad and just getting worse in this country.  But I can’t see myself leaving, no, I’ll be here.

JS: You talked in one of your recent books about eco-tourism and jet-setting all over the place; you know, this week we can go to the Everglades, next week Glacier National Park, then the redwoods.  But you talked about vacationing at home in your bioregion; sticking to it, learning the intricacies of that place.  Why do you think it’s important to find a place you love and stick with it?

DJ: Well for a couple of reasons.  Actually I think where I liked writing about it best was in the zoo book [Thought to Exist in the Wild:  Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos].  Because one of the things I say is that people go to these exotic places, or in this case, people go to zoos—one of the excuses for the existence of zoos is that we need to have a connection to wild animals.

JS: Such a joke.

DJ: And that’s true, but it’s not really a connection to wild animals if they’re in cages.  There’s another lesson to be learned there; if you want to see bears, you should live such that bears want to see you.  I think it’s a very very bad lesson to be teaching children especially:  that you can destroy a landbase but still see the bears on whose land you’re living.  So what I say there is that instead of going to a zoo, you should go outside and get to know the creatures who live in your home—even if you live in the city!  In Thought to Exist.., I thought, okay, I’m gonna go to the worst place in this entire area, the most life-unforgiving place and see what I see.  And I went to the McDonald’s parking lot.  There were some little landscaped bushes right next to highway, between Highway 101 and McDonald’s.  I sat there for about 30 seconds and I started seeing spiders, I saw sparrows hopping along the ground, I saw seagulls, I saw some bumblebees even though it’s a little cold.  Those beings are just as important and we need to get to know them.  As we’re doing this interview, it’s a little cold here and I’m starting a fire.  I’m putting some old scrap paper into the woodstove.  Just a moment ago, and I felt really bad about this because I didn’t see it before I put it in.  But there was this little tiny tiny spider that was living on this used scratch paper pile, and I accidentally burned it when I put it in the woodstove.  And my point is that even something as absolutely sterile as a box full of used scratch paper still has living beings in it.  This is not to say that, well, since they can live there, then that makes it okay that forests are destroyed.  I’m not saying that at all.  What I’m saying is that there’s life right next to us and we should get to know that.

There are a lot of problems I have with the whole eco-tourism thing; one is that it’s just the same sort of pornographic mindset that’s killing the planet; that it’s there for us to consume, whether we consume it through the timber industry or whether we consume it through our eyes.

JS: Loving it to death.

DJ: Well, it’s more like…I remember Linda Hogan years ago wrote about nature writers who go to Yucatan Peninsula and they end up writing about themselves.  You know, what do you know about the place?  Years ago, when I was in my twenties, I was at one point driving all over the place and I think in half a year I slept in 130 different places.  Most of the time just throwing my backpack down by the side of the road.  And I realized pretty quickly that for all I was driving around, I may as well just be sitting inside a small theater with different scenes projected onto the windshield.  Because I wasn’t getting to know any place at all.  Absolutely no knowledge obtained.  All you’d have to do is turn the car into a little theater and blow in some different scents—and it doesn’t really matter, you’re still you.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that years ago I interviewed Vine Deloria, and one of the things he talked about is how all his students at the University of Colorado, they’d go hiking over a weekend, and they thought they were connecting with nature.  But what he would say is they’re not, all they’re having is an aesthetic experience.  In order to really get to know a place, you have to live there for a really long time to start recognizing the patterns.  I’ve lived here for 10 years and I don’t know the patterns.  Recently there was a very bad year for banana slugs—they’re everywhere here—and it was a really bad year for them.  Was that a strange thing or was that a pattern?  And in this case they came back the next year.  I just noticed this last night—this year is a very good year for mushrooms.  Which is kind of odd because it’s been very dry until a couple days ago.  It also hasn’t been very cold; November is usually the coldest month here:  what does that mean?  I mean it takes a long time to start to see the patterns of who comes when.  And that’s true with human relationships too.  You can have this really amazing weekend affair that’s really passionate, and that’s one thing.  That’s also not the same as getting to know someone over a long time, it takes a long time just to know humans’ patterns.  Or to get to know a dog’s patterns, a dog’s preferences.  I live with this dog 24 hours a day and it still takes a long time for us to get to know each other.  How much more so when you have the additional complexity of all these different beings who are all just as sentient and alive as we are?  I mean the trees have just as much preferences as we do, and just as much of a subjective existence.  And to get to know them takes a long long time.  And of course that’s a good thing, that’s a fine thing.  It takes generations to really get to know a place.  I read somewhere about how some indigenous peoples, I don’t remember who, knew that martens make a major migration every six human generations or something.  How do you know that unless you’ve lived there long enough for that to have happened three or four times.  Once you’ve lived there for 18 human generations, then you might know that.

I just got a note a couple days ago; people always ask me if I will edit their work or if they can edit mine.  I always say no because I have to know someone really well before I feel comfortable with that.  If I were to edit a book of yours, what I would have to do is figure out what you want to say, and how you want to say it, and then help you to say it better.  And it takes a long time to get to know someone well enough to know what they want to say.  And to enter into those relationships.  It’s even more so if we don’t both speak English, or don’t both even speak human.  It takes a really long time to get to know another well enough to know what is in the others’ best interest.  I mean some things are pretty obvious—it’s not in a forest’s best interest to be clearcut, we can know that.  But what does a forest really want?

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The rest of this (extended) discussion can be found under both the BEST OF THE WEST header and the OTHER WRITINGS header above.  Thanks!

HERE  is a link to my review of Jensen’s book Lives Less Valuable.

HERE is a link to my review of his graphic novel As the World Burns:  50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay in Denial

Cartoons About Saving Earth!

This is reposted from www.DeepGreenResistance.org ;  read about DGR– the most critical, crucial movement this world has ever seen–the movement to TRULY save the planet and its millions of species from sure destruction.  This is about REAL sustainability, not capitalist sustainability, or sustainability that allows us to continue being vastly overpopulated and overconsumptive and destructive.  Also, you can read my review of Deep Green Resitance, published in the Earth First! Journal, HERE.

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Cartoons may seem like a questionable choice of medium for conveying complex political theory, organizational strategy, and scathing critique of mainstream movements, But then, if you feel that way, you must not have read the work of Stephanie McMillan.

McMillan, a cartoonist based out of Florida in the United States, has two main cartoons. The first, Minimum Security, is a daily comic strip in the form of a long-form narrative, about a group of friends trying to stop ecocidal maniacs from destroying the Earth. The second, Code Green, began in August 2009 as a weekly editorial cartoon focused on the environmental emergency.

From the author, Stephanie McMillan:

“I’ve been thinking of quitting drawing “Code Green,” my weekly editorial cartoon about the environmental emergency. My income from paying clients has crashed; if I’m going to continue it, it needs to be supported by readers. So I’ve started a fundraising campaign.

I’m not going to be pushing this much at all. This is the only post I’m going to make about it. I’m okay with quitting this cartoon. But because some readers seemed dismayed when I talked about quitting, I didn’t feel right about ending it without giving you a chance to keep it going.”

Support Stephanie McMillan’s Code Green here: http://www.indiegogo.com/codegreen

If you like these cartoons, I highly recommend the hilarious graphic novel As the World Burns  by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan.  You can read my short blog-post review of it HERE.

As the World Burns by Jensen and MacMillan

This book was released five years ago, but it’s still great and still very timely and I want to promote it, so this is my short review of it.

As the World Burns:  50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan, Seven Stories Press, 2007.

As the World Burns is a graphic novel about a world becoming increasingly unlivable.  Dams choke rivers and decimate fish populations, factories spew toxic garbage into the air and water and soil, and enormous swaths of open space disappear to the death-marching “progress” of industrial civilization (sound familiar?).  And we’re supposed to fight this death machine by recycling?  Taking shorter showers?  All the while, aliens from outer space have descended, and bought off the rights to what’s left of Planet Earth’s natural resources from the torture-loving, zombie-faced U.S. President in exchange for large amounts of gold.  The aliens begin gorging themselves—literally—on the forests, rocks, mountains, fish, and everything else in the natural world until almost nothing is left.  And the president’s corporate masters are not happy about it…

The novel traces the philosophical evolutions of many disparate human characters—young adults, mainstream environmentalists, a nature-loving wanderer who may or may not be Derrick Jensen—and how they come together, both conceptually and physically, to rise up with appropriate levels of resistance and stop those who are killing the planet.  For the nonhumans, there is never any question.  The crows, the polar bears, the raccoons and fish and one-eyed “vicious terrorist” bunny who escaped from a vivisection lab, don’t have the luxury of waiting patiently for the revolution to come, for the shackles of civilization to be gradually lifted.  They don’t have air conditioning, water filters, or laws to protect them; they feel the brutal effects of industry and human development every day, in their bodies, in their psyches.  For those with the steel-toed Shaq-boot of civilization on their necks, there is no tomorrow.

As the World Burns is a gripping, hilarious, heartbreaking tale.  I cheered and I cried when the one-eyed bunny returns to the vivisection lab and exacts revenge on his tormentors.  We could all learn something from the “terrorist” bunny, and the rest of the nonhumans in the story.  They never stop to question whether their actions are “moral,” legal, or fit into a rigid dogmatic philosophical doctrine (also a product of civilization, a concern that just doesn’t exist in the natural world).  Freedom is all that matters.

As the World Burns is rife with Jensen’s acerbic wit.  McMillan’s drawings are fabulous, too.  It is necessarily less in depth than Jensen’s usual long, winding, piercing analyses.  In a way, this is a blessing, since this makes it much more accessible to those not well-versed in anti-civ ideas.  Get a copy, spend a few hours being entertained and inspired, and then pass it around to your friends.  You just might plant the seeds of revolution.

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You can buy it from your local used book store, or directly from Derrick Jensen (and check out his great website while you’re at it!).

Derrick Jensen’s Thoughts?

 

Saw Derrick in Berkeley the other night and came home to see a picture I took with this expression, and just had to meme-ify it  🙂

Highlight of the night (aside from his hopping up from the book-signing table to give me a big hug and say how happy he is that I’m free!) was when he said (paraphrased):

A lot of people tell me they can’t imagine living without the internet, or cars, or take your pick of industrial technologies.  But when was the last time you heard someone say, “I can’t imagine living without polar bears.  Or salmon.  Or migratory songbirds.  Or a livable planet.  When was the last time YOU said something like that?

So very powerful, so very true.

 

Testify! Eco-Defense and the Politics of Violence

This is probably the best overall documentary I’ve seen about the environment; it is uncompromisingly militant and very entertaining to boot.  It is available in 9 parts on You Tube.  Here’s part 1.  I cannot more highly recommend it.

 

I’ve also transcribed the video in English, in case anybody wants to subtitle it in their native language; I did this for a friend in the Czech Republic and he then added subtitles and showed it at hardcore shows!  Let me know if you want a copy of the transcript.

Tree Spiker by Mike Roselle

A Review of Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action by Mike Roselle with Josh Mahan, St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

Along with book-inspired ramblings and historical, factual, and tactical explorations.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. And not just because it was free, ethically shoplifted (not by ME, of course!) from a major book-selling corporation that gobbles up independent booksellers.  But because it should’ve been a great story with a radical environmental message that would inspire me to work even harder with my own writing–the only form of activism I can really participate in, given my disability. But I must be honest. Overall, I did not like the book. It has some positive elements, but it also has myriad overwhelmingly horrible elements that push it over the edge into the territory of more-harm-than-good.

I’ll start with the good aspects, since there are only a few; hoping that you’ll read through it all to get to the more important critiques. It was a quick read. Well-written most of the time. Tree Spiker, written in first-person, tells the story of Mike Roselle, who co-founded the radical environmental organization Earth First! (exclamation point mandatory!) with Dave Foreman and others in the early 1980s. He also founded or co-founded an impressive list of hotshot eco-organizations, such as The Ruckus Society and Rainforest Action Network (RAN). It was interesting to learn about the genesis of these groups. ‘Twas also fascinating to learn more about some of the victories gained by Earth First!, such as winning some amount of alleged protection in the Cove/Mallard Wilderness area in Idaho. Whether any of the victories are wholly worthwhile is debatable, as I will discuss later.

I liked how the book included a lot of ecological primers, you could call them: explanations, say, of why forests are vitally important for everyone, not just the animals who live there. And how the idea of “sustained-yield (in other words, sustainable) logging” is utterly fallacious. These almost make the book worth recommending to people not well-versed on ecology; however, the serious flaws of the book convince me that it would be much more worthwhile to recommend books that delineate ecological issues, but then do not come to faulty conclusions, as Tree Spiker does. Books by dudes like Edward Abbey and Derrick Jensen. Lastly in terms of positive aspects, it was very intriguing to learn about some of the intricacies of different campaigns. For example, the unabashed violence of “timber” workers: “Loggers were shooting any red-cockaded woodpecker they encountered on the job…Speak out at a public hearing, and your dog will be shot or poisoned, roofing nails may be thrown on your driveway, your car windows shot out, and your children harassed at school.” (emphasis mine) It’s good to see that he included evidence that the essential totality of the violence surrounding environmentalists flows in one direction; that is to say, against them (see Premise Four at the beginning of Derrick Jensen’s crucial two-volume work, Endgame). It was also nice to see a good practical response to this violence: “They intimidated us. We intimidated them. Rick Valois and the Eco-Rangers, complete with military uniforms, volunteered to guard the road [leading to the Cove/Mallard activists‘ outdoor headquarters] and our camp against any attacks from the loggers” (page 158). This is a great example set for those who care about life on the planet. Corporate/Government thugs (if you can tell them apart) and psychotic brainwashed members of the dominant culture will be prepared and even gleeful at every opportunity to physically assault us, especially as the collapse of industrial civilization hastens and accountability is reduced even further than it already has been. We need to be prepared to defend ourselves by a variety of methods. Unfortunately the organizers disallowed the Eco Rangers from carrying firearms, even though it was on private property owned by one of the environmentalists, and therefore wouldn’t have even been illegal!

Now on to the really big issues I had with the book. There are so many flaws that I could easily fill pages, but I’ll stick to the really big ones. First off, he staunchly speaks out against the tactic of spiking trees to try to prevent them from being logged. Even though he did it himself–successfully, I might add–on multiple occasions. With just a couple hours of work, he and his partners in “crime” were able to stop timber sales that would’ve in all likelihood taken literally hundreds or thousands of person-hours to stop through legal channels. It worked. Certainly not all the time, not even most of the time, but it worked. And let’s not forget that the vast majority–an embarrassing majority–of legal attempts to stop the destruction of the natural world fail. And that when they do succeed, they take absolutely enormous amounts of people and time invested, as opposed to sabotage, which can take a handful or even sometimes just one person, and only a matter of hours rather than months or year. With so much destruction going on, to the point where every body of water on the planet is contaminated with man-made toxic chemicals, and runaway global climate change is imminent, and there is a remote area of the Pacific Ocean twice the size of the United States where particles of plastic out-volume plankton by a ratio of 5 to 1, we don’t have the fucking TIME to be polite and ask nicely and remain unequivocally within the bounds of the laws created by those who are profiting from the destruction of the planet. We have to do whatever it takes. All of our lives are at stake, and the lives of future generations, and the lives of countless nonhuman species threatened with extinction. Roselle sites the example of one single mill worker in Cloverdale, California (the book says Hopland, but it was actually Cloverdale–being a Mendocino County resident, I’m allowed to split hairs here) who was seriously injured when a spike snapped the band saw with which he was slicing a tree. So what that the worker, George Alexander, blames not environmentalists for the incident, but his company: “Cracks had begun appearing in the band saw blade, and the blade was wobbling when it ran. But when George and other workers complained, foreman Dick [how fitting] Edwards shined them on, saying the new blades were not in yet, and they would have to make do. ‘That blade was getting so bad,’ said George, ‘that I almost didn’t go to work that day.’” (Timber Wars, Judi Bari 1994). And it is widely accepted for a number of reasons that the spiking was not done by an eco-radical, but by a disgruntled local Republican.  And yet still Roselle uses this incident as the primary reason to disavow tree-spiking. If it sounds nonsensical to you, I think you’re onto something.

Yes, there is a chance that with sabotage somebody might be injured (though precautions are always taken to avoid just such a thing), even though both the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) have never killed a human being, and the worst harm ever done was when an ALF member in the U.K. gave a security guard a bloody nose with a punch (From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Keith Mann, Puppy Pincher Press, 2007–an amazing, fascinating book that explores the historical growth and actions of the ALF–see http://www.fromdusktildawn.org.uk/). And these are the two underground organizations the U.S. Government calls THE #1 DOMESTIC TERRORIST THREAT. Think maybe it has something to do with the fact that they’re targeting, very effectively I might add, profits rather than people? It rather starkly demonstrates their priorities. So while there is that tiny risk that somebody might be hurt, if effective action is not taken to prevent the catastrophic collapse of ecosystems the world over, every single human and nonhuman on the planet will be harmed and/or killed. How convenient that Roselle does not take these things into account and then try to refute them, or even mention them. It’s a common tactic utilized when a person knows they are standing on shaky ideological grounds. Judi Bari (rest her soul) did it when denouncing tree-spiking in her book Timber Wars. And Roselle follows suit and does it here. But he sure does take advantage of the sensationalism of tree-spiking to try and sell more books. For fuck’s sake, he NAMED THE GODDAMN BOOK AFTER IT!! Fer shame!

There was one offhand remark relatively early on that was insulting to women and offensive even to me as a male. To me it spoke volumes about Mike Roselle’s personal worldview, of which he thinks so highly. At one point in his life someone offers him a job doing anti-nuke activism in Nevada. He lists two reasons for declining that offer. The first is that he spent a lot of time in Vegas before, and didn’t want to work out of a cheap motel. The second is that, “[his] girlfriend , Claire Greensfelder, had just been hired to coordinate the Greenpeace Nuke campaign. She would be my boss.” OH THE HORROR!! A WOMAN, BEING THE BOSS OF A MAN! HEAVEN ON EARTH FORBID!! Ugh. The patriarchal mindset embodied here is just revolting, and for those two sentences alone he deserves not a single book sale. Unfortunately it goes far, far beyond that.

His chapter about the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle, which would come to be known as the Battle in Seattle, is laughable. Almost as laughable–almost–as the chapter that follows it, which is about the ELF. First, he derides the militant confrontation inspired by the Black Bloc (which he erroneously spells “Black Block” every time) anarchists: “Images of black-clad, bandanna-wearing anarchists throwing rocks at Starbucks windows came to define the event, pushing any other issue by the wayside” (page 230). And…um…so fucking what! Sometimes only sensational images can wake people up from their television and culture-induced, zombie-like stupor. The fact of the matter is that it drew huge international attention to the event. People are still talking about it over a decade later. For christ’s sake, a mainstream movie about the protests that got released in theaters came out just a couple years ago. Called…well whatta ya know, Battle in Seattle. And yes, it did cover the issues, not just the property destruction. That protest will start showing up in history textbooks if it hasn’t already. How many protests can that be said about? Had it been just another boring, dime-a-dozen, peaceful, sign-waving, chanting protest, it would’ve been lucky to receive a tenth of the media attention, and it would’ve disappeared from the collective consciousness almost immediately–if it even made it there in the first place. Even more importantly, beyond showing that a lot of people were really fucking angry with the state of the world, it showed that fighting back was an option. Something we need more and more every single day. At the end of the chapter, Roselle displays his total ignorance and proves that he doesn’t know a goddamn thing about what he is taking such a strong stance on. Referring to anti-war protestors, he says, “They only called for U.S. troops to pull out and let the region sink into real anarchy” (pgs. 230-231). This shows two things. First, that he is fine with the mass murder of innocent brown-skinned civilians, which would continue every day the wars did. Second, it shows that he doesn’t even know what the word anarchy even means! His knowledge of anarchism seems to come solely from popular mainstream media (e.g. Heath Ledger’s Joker saying, “But introduce a little…ANARCHY!). Guess what, genius: anarchy is not a synonym for chaos. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It would actually be wonderful if Iraq and Afghanistan became regions of “real anarchy.” It would mean total self-governance, egalitarian decision-making, an end to patriarchy and violence toward women, an end to oppression, and so on. Like I said–laughable. The next chapter shows that, sadly, his ignorance goes even deeper.

It starts at the very beginning–with the chapter title: “Green Scare–The Brief and Brutal Career of the ELF.” This tries to slide at least two premises right on by us. But slow down just a second there, Mikey. He uses the word “brief.” This presupposes first that the ELF’s “career” was…well…brief. That it only lasted a very short time. Well shit, last time I checked, people were still performing sabotage under the rubric of the Earth Liberation Front all over the world. Last I checked, they had a press office to disseminate their communiqués and defend their actions to the media. Hell, some folks have just recently started up a environmental journal focusing largely on the ELF (Resistance: Journal of the Earth Liberation Movement, see http://www.resistancemagazine.org/)! He later says that Bill “Avalon” Rodgers, who was involved in some of the more spectacular ELF actions, such as the torching of a Veil ski resort that caused some $12,000,000 (yup, 12 million) in damages, “had recruited a cell for a group he called the Earth Liberation Front (pgs. 235-236, emphasis mine). Funny, the ELF started around 1992 in England as a more radical off-shoot of Earth First!, by people who were tired with the same old tactics and felt the need to step things up. I’m fairly certain Avalon was not in the U.K. in the early 90s convincing Earth First!ers to move in a more militant direction. It’s also highly debatable that Avalon recruited the ELF members who were later involved in the government’s “Operation Backfire” roundup. I’ve read a lot on the matter, and never seen any solid evidence he was any kind of leader. It is, after all, a leaderless organization by design! Not so “brief,” then, is it? Then that other word…“brutal.” He also calls that particular cell’s actions “altogether more violent than anything that had ever been done in the name of the environment before.” Really? How about the dozens of BOMBINGS that took place against a water pipeline in the Owens Valley of California that was stealing water from the valley for Los Angeles in the 1920s? The ELF never used a single bomb, only incendiary devices.

Roselle also claims, “In no instance have I seen or suspected a coordinated attempt by the federal government to disrupt the environmental movement” (page. 238). Somebody’s gotta get this guy in the motherfuckin loop! Does he live in a Unabomber cabin in the Appalachian wilderness or something? How about the case of undercover FBI provocateur “Anna,” who infiltrated a group of environmentalists and entrapped Eric McDavid, landing him a 22-odd year prison sentence (see http://supporteric.org/), or the government’s attempt to infiltrate vegan fucking potlucks!? (see http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-informant-vegan-potluck/437/ from Will Potter‘s wonderful site, Green Is the New Red).

He says, “The new anarchists lacked a commitment to, and an understanding of, nonviolence” (page 234). And yet he mentions at one point that several of the ELF members had attended his Ruckus Society’s nonviolence trainings. Apparently their lessons didn’t stick? LOL! Or better yet, I would not be at all surprised if those bullshit nonviolence trainings were the thing that finally pushed them over the edge toward militant direct action! What a lovely irony that would be. Later on in the very paragraph about their lacking a commitment to nonviolence, Roselle says, “…there was no room for anyone who did not conform to their rigid set of principles and worldview.” Wow, kind of sounds like him with the nonviolence thing, doesn’t it? He even invokes the legacy of MLK and Gandhi to show why nonviolence is morally paramount and effective. But of course, he ignores the totality of factors that led to those individuals’ success. That, for example, the United States was stuck in a quagmire in Vietnam during MLK’s busiest era, and therefore had much fewer troops and resources and energy to expend fighting blacks in America. Ditto that for Britain during Gandhi’s time. For a thorough debunking of the myth of nonviolence as the only thing that has ever achieved anything in social justice movements, see Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill. Man alive, I can’t believe this guy got picked up by a major publisher. Then again, maybe it makes a lot of sense. Not exactly a bunch of eco-radicals and historians over there at St. Martin’s, I’m wildly guessing. It also makes me even more depressed that I have such trouble getting my books represented by an agent or published. “The food was vegan,” he says, again in the very same paragraph, “the music hip-hop, and clothes black. Tattoos and piercing were required.” Hm. I’m not going to spend much time on this embarrassing nonsense, but being a (green) anarchist myself, I’ve been to a fair number of anarchist events and gatherings. There seems to always be non-vegan food present (though not non-vegetarian, thankfully). I’ve heard all kinds of music there. And I have no tattoos or piercings. They didn’t check my body upon entering for these things, so apparently they aren’t so required. I literally lol’d (laughed out loud) when I read that. The final joke and insult was a two-pronged verbal assault on the ELF: first Roselle says that, “They wanted everything the easy way” (pg. 238). Oh my. Call me a crazy bastard, but I don’t think–now I could be wrong, but I do not think that committing multiple serious felonies with no statutes of limitations, setting fires that caused millions of dollars in damages, and risking life sentences in prison is the goddamn fucking EASY WAY OUT. Finally, the closing sentence of the pathetic chapter: “In the end, it takes more courage to sit in front of a bulldozer than it does to burn one” (page 238). I actually had to write LMFAO! in the margin on that one. Do I even need to delve into that one? If you’ve made it this far, I hope not. Just see the previous example.

In short, he holds his nose up so high at those with differing viewpoints that you can see far more of the man that you want to; his nose hair, his boogers, maybe even his comparatively small brain peeking down at you. For every positive aspect, there are 5 or more negative ones. And in the end, I think it is a book more harmful to the environmental movement than helpful–mainly because it encourages the kind of nonviolent dogma in our actions that is leading us straight into ecological Armageddon. We need to utilize effective tactics that actually start to unravel the systems of power and destruction, not concern ourselves with moral purity.

I apologize for the length (wow, that may be the first time I’ve ever used those words together–alright, a teeny weenie joke!). But it started as a book review and morphed into something more, a sort of diatribe against nonviolent dogma and in defense of effective action, and the crucial nature thereof.

END:CIV

This movie being done by indie filmmaker Franklin Lopez of “It’s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine” (whew!) fame is gonna be the motherfuckin shims’ limbs, the bees’ knees (do bees even have knees??)  Who gives a shit, it’s gonna rock.

Here’s a link to a short preview of the movie: 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHrYawWXD2w&feature=player_embedded

For more information, click on the END:CIV link on the right.  Donate money if you can to help Lopez finish this important project!  Email him and tell him you want to screen it when it comes out (I certainly will be!)