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Earth First! Essay

2327 words - 10 pages

A collection of people, green-anarchist radicals, as many would call them, sit cross-legged in the grass, listening to various musical acts and speakers, while absorbing the old growth redwood trees they are surrounded by. They are voicing their pleas of protection for the very earth their toes were sinking into, the very nature they found themselves surrounded by, the very nature they were watching be destroyed. Collectively, the words of the immoral, dedicated fighter Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. echoed around them: “If a human being doesn’t have something they’re willing to die for, they don’t deserve to live”1
The early 1980s in America saw a stark transition of political power – ...view middle of the document...

“I am alive!” he argued, “I am not a machine... why shouldn’t I be emotional, angry, passionate?”4 Similarly, when doing work in the conservation movement, Wolke was dubbed as an “inexperienced young idealist lacking a sense of political reality”3 when they both were just earnestly searching for avenues to enact real, environmental change. Lobbying in a corrupt congress and government wasn’t working, nor was spending time in conservative, publically accepted environmental corporations. These conditioned and willing activists felt it was time to take true action, with “no punches pulled.”3 Their goals weren’t to make mainstream groups like Sierra Club look weak and useless, but to push them to view radical acts in the name of nature as acceptable and feasible. Many of the founders even came from those green-group backgrounds and as Wolke says, “believed very deeply in them,”3 only trying to bring radical activism to the forefront of the environmental movement.
They would call themselves Earth First!, made intently to fill the gap in the environmental and conservation movements of radically defending the earth for the sake of the wilderness, not people. These were the basic principles of deep ecology, a biocentric view of the planet that puts humans on the same level of importance as all living species.5 Thus, to a deep ecologist, cutting down a tree would be viewed as the same level of a crime as murdering a person. Inspired by the works of prominent deep ecologist and novelist, Edward Abbey, 6 the founders began the framework of their group – with a logo of a monkeywrench and a stone hammer, meant to symbolize radical tactics and a desire to return to the “pre-electric era”3 – with a motto of: “No compromise in defense of Mother Earth!”5 It would rely on radical tactics known as monkeywrenching, or “eco-tage”, the dismantling of industrial equipment used to destroy nature, such as destroying the gas tanks of bulldozers or tree-spiking trees to disrupt the logging business, along with protests like tree-sits and blockades.5 Earth First! was to be a movement, not an organization, with no leaders or headquarters – it would be run from within and open to anyone who was willing to fight for the earth, a framework that the current movement still strictly follows.5
Earth First! made their public debut a short year after their foundation, with their first large action at the Glen Canyon Dam in Colorado.7 The dam, the symbol of environmental destruction for its time, had been diverting water from the Colorado River since the late 1950s, causing water shortages and habitat loss all along the American Southwest.7 The idea to target this particular dam may have come from Earth First!ers’ inspirational hero Edward Abbey, for in his book The Monkey Wrench Gang, activists “dreamt of exploding Glen Canyon Dam.”7 Thus, in March of 1981, Earth First!ers dropped a 300 foot-long black sheet down the face of the dam, making it appear as though it was cracked down...

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