THE GLOBAL EMERGENCE OF RADICAL AND POPULAR ENVIRONMENTALISM
Earth First! and Global Narratives of Popular Ecological Resistance
We tell and hear stories. They awaken feelings in us. Thinking in response, we ponder the meaning of narratives. Is there a fable here, a moral lesson, a call to action? Personal stories can fuse with the broader narratives of communities and cultures--often unconsciously and uncritically--especially in social contexts characterized by little cultural diversity. But more often, integrating personal and cultural narratives is a difficult personal process. There are so many stories. Which ones move us? Which make sense?
The stakes are high in battles over narratives. These battles, and the stories themselves, shape our individual and collective identities, and thus our character. They tell us how we should live and how we should relate to others. Questions such as--Who am I?, How and with whom do I fit in?, Where is my community?, What is the good life?--are often if not usually resolved in narrative.
Since my undergraduate days, I have been moved often by what Roger Betsworth calls "outsider" stories. First, by "Liberation theology" with its story of Christians acting to promote earthly peace and justice. This spin on Christianity was striking in its deviance from the dominant, otherworldly Christian stories with which I was well acquainted; it also repudiated the close association between the Church and political power that has dominated the last millennia and a half. Liberation narratives, which explain inequality as the consequence of oppression also contradicted central U.S. narratives, including the "Gospel of Success" and the Enlightenment story of progress--both of which assume that hard work yields individual success and material prosperity--and that these consequences constitute the good society (Betsworth 1990).
Further exploration uncovered more stories and introduced additional, incompatible claims into the contestation. Complicating matters further, since factually irreconcilable stories still move people emotionally (sometimes even the same individuals!), it became obvious that affect and intuition were not sufficient grounds for choosing between competing narratives. It seemed, therefore, that competing claims would have to be arbitrated rationally--that only careful reasoning could help sort-out which stories made sense. Nevertheless, moral sentiments are connected to emotions and intuitions, to our capacity for caring. Consequently, we need to find an approach that can reconcile narratives presented to us with our own personal experiences, as well as an approach that recognizes the connections between the reflective and affective dimensions of moral experience.
My own experience has been that we can discover new insights by seriously considering the contending claims of competing narratives. For example, by researching liberationist claims I gradually became convinced that (1) multilateral "Aid" often exacerbates the plight of the poor by promoting cash-crop "monocultures" that, in turn, lead to food exports to affluent consumers while depriving subsistence foods to local populations; (2) huge "development" schemes such as hydro-electric dams "aid" displace rural peoples and destroy vast areas capable of sustaining them (Goldsmith 1983; McDonald 1993); and (3) such agricultural practices and development projects are intimately related to the world's declining biological diversity (Hayter 1985; Rich 1994). I was initially skeptical of such claims, since they contradicted (or at least qualified) a narrative with which I was much more familiar, that of the United States generously assisting less affluent nations.
As valuable as specific insights might be, however, even more significant is what I have learned about the value of outsider voices per se. Even when mistaken, they can raise important questions and focus attention on issues demanding thoughtful scrutiny. Sometimes they powerfully expose selfish interests and self-deceptions camouflaged in the dominant narratives of the politically powerful (Betsworth 1990). Outsider voices can carry valuable knowledge that guardians of the world's dominant narratives prefer would remain little-known. For example relevant to this volume's themes, protests by Native Americans over how Euro-Americans came and destroyed indigenous cultures and ecosystems can counter tendencies within the Euro-American culture toward unmerited feelings of superiority, while simultaneously demand respect for Native peoples and Mother Earth. In such ways, outsider voices can kindle moral imagination, obliging us to consider moral claims completely outside our own frames-of-reference.
By listening to and engaging strange voices and deviant stories in a conversation, and by making moral decisions in response, we can deepen understanding and build moral character. The initial step in such engagement is often the most difficult: the painful act of listening.
This book contains many stories of ecological resistance, and reflections about them. The seeds for this volume were planted in 1978 when I first read Edward Abbey's The Monkeywrench Gang, a novel about a band of fed-up environmentalists who resorted to sabotage in an effort to halt and reverse the destruction of a desert they loved. Abbey was an anarchist whose stories pitted freedom loving individuals against the dehumanizing and earth-destroying forces of an authoritarian, bureaucratic, and obsessively pro-development society. I first read it as fiction. But Abbey was romanticizing the exploits of an already emerging ecological guerilla force that, in 1980, took form as the ecological resistance movement known as Earth First!. Recognizing Earth First! as an outsider voice, in 1989 I decided to conduct field and documentary research, first to understand the movement as a historical and social phenomena, and second to consider its moral, ecological and political claims.
In this chapter, I first provide an interpretation of the key moral, ecological, and political claims articulated by participants in the Earth First! movement. I then describe perceptions shared by many Earth First!ers about grassroots movements around the world which they consider to be kindred movements of ecological resistance. In this way, I introduce Earth First!'s own narrative as well as other narratives of ecological resistance originating in diverse contexts around the world. My purpose in describing such narratives is not to endorse or promote them. Rather, toward the end of this chapter, I use the claims and perceptions embedded in these narratives to pose problems for us to consider throughout this volume. By studying the Earth First! movement and agonizing over its claims, I have deepened my own understanding of the moral, ecological, and political dimensions of contemporary environmental controversies. Even if we end up disagreeing with them, examining "outsider" claims and narratives can enhance our own understandings.
Earth First! announced itself in the early 1980s with a series of humorous protests. For example, activists illegally unfurled a plastic "crack" down the face of Glen Canyon Dam, symbolically "liberating" the Colorado river. But soon the actions turned more serious as activists struggled to prevent destructive enterprises in wilderness areas. They blockaded logging roads, sometimes with activists bicycle-locked to machinery or buried up to their necks or perched precariously high atop wooden "tripods." Activists conducted multi-day "tree-sits" to prevent felling. Various forms of "night work," "ecotage," or "monkeywrenching"--movement parlance for sabotage intended to thwart environmental destruction--increasingly accompanied the civil disobedience campaigns.
Activists viewed ecotage as economic warfare against those who would destroy wilderness areas. By vandalizing equipment, pulling up survey stakes, driving metal, ceramic or quartz spikes into trees, and so on, practitioners hoped to halt the destruction by making it unprofitable (Foreman and Haywood 1987). Meanwhile, they took their message across North America: through guerilla theater, where activists dressed in animal costumes conducting mock trials of human corporate criminals; through poetry and song at demonstrations, in the courts, and in jails; through "road shows" (touring public presentations) often involving spellbinding storytelling woven into science-based arguments about the ecological importance of wilderness; and through the creative invention of ritual processes designed to evoke and deepen what they considered proper human perceptions of the sacrality of the natural world (Taylor 1993a). Less well known is their strategy of "paper monkeywrenching"--the threat or actual filing of administrative appeals and lawsuits by individuals and small groups of activists. Scattered around country, often self-taught, but increasingly sophisticated both legally and scientifically, such activists have been among the most effective North American campaigners for biological diversity.
In myriad ways these activists lived out their narratives of ecological rebellion, sometimes weaving their resistance into a larger evolutionary story: for example, in words originally expressed by the Australian Earth First!er John Seed, "I am the rainforest, recently emerged into consciousness, defending myself." This idea became a movement slogan when popularized by Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman. It suggested that ecological resistance is an evolutionary expression of self-defense--a necessary adaptation for re-harmonizing the human and non-human worlds.
Other movement stories have assumed nearly mythic significance, especially Aldo Leopold's wilderness epiphany about the intrinsic value of the non-human world, gained as he witnessed the "green fire" die in the eyes of a wolf he had shot. This story is strikingly similar to the description by Paul Watson of the day his gaze met that of a harpooned whale he was trying to save. Looking into that whale's eye revealed, Watson recounts, an "intelligence...that spoke wordlessly of compassion..., that communicated [that he knew] what we had tried to do." From this experience, Watson received his commission: "On that day I knew emotionally and spiritually that my allegiance lay with the whales...over the interests of the humans who would kill them" (Watson 1993b). Finally, in addition to these classic tales, there is a growing body of narratives about heroic environmental activists. Those engaged in ecological resistance, especially those injured or martyred, are often honored in poetry and song.
With such tactics and legitimating stories, activists of Earth First! movement have advanced moral, ecological and political claims which constitute the three essential pillars of Earth First!'s ethics. Their moral claim is that non-human life is valuable, even apart from its usefulness to human beings. Every species has "intrinsic worth," and each should be allowed to fulfill its "evolutionary destiny." To this, many Earth First!ers add, humans are no more valuable than other species. This is a proposition posed dramatically, if implicitly, by those acts of ecotage risking human injury or death. This simple form of the moral argument has become known as Deep Ecology, a term coined in 1973 by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, but quickly adopted by Earth First!ers in the early 1980s. The terms "biocentrism" (for life-centered), and increasingly, "ecocentrism" (for ecosystem-centered), expressed the conviction that all ecosystems should be allowed to flourish, that humans should not impede such flourishing, and when possible they should restore the natural preconditions for such flourishing. This biocentrism is contrasted with anthropocentrism, that is, a human-centered approach to the environment.Accepting arguments like those advanced by Toynbee (1972) and White (1967), most Earth First!ers blame the major religious monotheisms of the West for fueling the anthropocentrism they generally believe is the most important cause of the human destruction of nature. In contrast, what animates most Earth First!ers are their own spiritual experiences in nature which convince them of the interrelatedness and sacrality of all life. Such experiences are the foundation of most deep ecological arguments about the intrinsic value of species and ecosystems. However, some activists believe it is counterproductive to their cause to discuss such underpinnings (Taylor 1995a).
Deep ecological moral perceptions combined with ecological urgency do not by themselves enjoin specific political strategies or tactics. The argument for such tactics requires political analysis. The heart of Earth First!'s political claim is either: democracy in the U.S. is a sham, thoroughly thwarted by corporate economic power, or, even if not a complete sham, the democratic political system is so distorted by corporate power and regressive human attitudes that it cannot respond quickly enough to avert the escalating extinction catastrophe. Moreover, Earth First!ers would argue that, in light of nature's intrinsic value, governing processes that disregard the interests of non-humans are illegitimate.
Many Earth First!ers add to such critique the ecofeminist contention that androcentrism and patriarchy play important roles in ecological destruction. Many agree that human hierarchy is also a key factor, drawing on Social Ecology or other anarchistic critiques. Few Earth First!ers would suggest, however, that either androcentrism or hierarchy fully explain environmental degradation. Nevertheless, virtually all of today's Earth First!ers believe patriarchy, hierarchy and anthropocentrism reflect related forms of domination that destroy the natural world. Most Earth First!ers agree that all such domination must be overcome if humans are to reharmonize their lifeways within nature.
Such political analysis provides the third essential pillar of Earth First!'s radicalism. Without it, in a formally democratic society, it is difficult to argue persuasively that illegal tactics are morally permissible. By asserting either that democratic procedures never existed, or that they have broken down, or that they camouflage domination, these activists argue that illegal tactics are morally justifiable.
These three claims lead to the assertion that the current situation--morally, ecologically, and politically--is so grave that tactics considered objectionable by most are instead necessary and even obligatory. Such analysis, in turn, provides for a continuum of tactics that roughly parallel these three claims. Some Earth First!ers prioritize efforts to change anthropocentric human attitudes by developing ritual processes that are believed to awaken nature-spirituality in urbanized humans. Others prioritize the use of scientific knowledge to argue for biological diversity in legal and policy making venues, sometimes through Earth First! spin-offs such as the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, or the Wildlands Project. Still others prioritize more aggressive political action, using a variety of provocative tactics to resist destructive enterprises, to publicize ecological injustices, and ideally, to precipitate the overturning of the intrinsically destructive industrial state.
Differences about priorities and tactics sometimes contribute to tensions within the movement. Nevertheless, most Earth First!ers believe that the struggle for biodiversity must be fought on all three of these related fronts--promoting spiritual awakening, ecological education, and fundamental political change. Most respect the work of those whose priorities differ from their own. All agree, as well, that the re-harmonizing of life on earth, requires the international expansion (and renewal) of deep ecological perceptions and actions.
Earth First!'s very first symbolic act involved creating a memorial to the Apache indian chief Victorio, whose last-ditch, armed resistance to the European conquest symbolized to them the struggle to preserve ecologically harmonious lifeways in North America. From that moment on, Earth First!ers have celebrated ecological resistance movements wherever they could be found. Popular environmental movements are interpreted as kindred movements in different cultural garb, particularly when they appear to be motivated by nature-based spirituality, and Earth First!ers try to act in solidarity with such groups.
Among the most notable expressions of such solidarity are the U.S. based Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and the Australia-based Rainforest Information Center (RIC). The latter was founded in 1983 by John Seed, an Australian environmental activist introduced to Earth First! in the early 1980s by poet and counterculture visionary Gary Snyder. Seed liked what he saw in the Earth First! journals Snyder showed him. Soon he was in the U.S., participating in road shows that, in 1983 and 1984, established thirty rainforest action groups. This inspired Mike Roselle (an Earth First! co-founder) and Randall Hayes (another activist drawn to Earth First! in the early 1980s) to form RAN. Their initial goal was to coordinate the efforts of these groups. A 1985 strategy conference led, in turn, to the 1986 formation of the World Rainforest Movement, now based in Penang, Malaysia, which serves as an international umbrella network for rainforest activism.
Most prominent among the struggles celebrated (and often supported) by Earth First!ers and their compatriot solidarity activists are those engaged in by (1) people believed to live sustainably (esp. forest dwellers and indigenous peoples), (2) those animated by nature spiritualities deemed similar to deep ecology, and (3) those who have become especially militant, employing civil disobedience, ecotage, and (rarely) violence against the agents of destruction. A brief survey of the movements that have drawn the greatest attention of Earth First! and RAN provides a rudimentary sense of the scope and nature of ecological resistance, and the solidarity activism, that is unfolding internationally.
Substantial movement attention has focused on the struggles of Amazonia's Seringueiros (peasant rubber tappers) and indigenous peoples, who formed their own "Forest People's Alliance" in 1987 to defend themselves and their forests against colonizers (see Hecht and Cockburn 1989:183, cf. 160-63, 180-183). In the eyes of movement activists, the struggle of these groups, who promote "extractive reserves" (setting aside the forest for small scale gathering, hunting, and rotating small-plot agriculture) is clearly radical. Extractive reserves presume "communal land ownership [and thereby attack] private property and hence capitalism" (Hecht and Cockburn 1989: 181-182). Moreover, their tactics are often militant, including non-violent, usually illegal land occupations, as well as sporadic and desperate armed attacks on miners, loggers, or other settlers.
Dispatches from a 1989 alliance-building meeting of nearly a thousand delegates from twelve Amazonian tribes illustrate Earth First!'s fascination with such "kindred" resistance movements. This meeting was held in Brazil at Altimira, near the site of a series of dams planned for the Xingu and Iriri rivers, which are tributaries of the Amazon. During one session, a Kayapo woman threatened with a machete an attending Brazilian official. Reporting for the Earth First! journal, Sea Shepherd director Benjamin White quoted her as threatening, if "you build this dam, we will go to war, and you will die." White implied that the Indians were deep ecologists at heart, and likened their indigenous attitudes to Earth First's "no compromise" stance. "Unlike the typical language of moderation, conciliation and defeat of North American liberals" White wrote, "the Indians' statements reflected their years of armed struggle and unwillingness to compromise" (1989). Another article reported that nature spirituality fueled their resistance, quoting one Native leader, "It is necessary to respect our Mother Nature. We advise against destroying the forests. For a long time, the white man has offended our way of thinking and the spirit of our ancestors. Our territories are the sacred sites of our people, the dwelling place of our creator..." (Swikes 1989; see also Pearce 1991, 133-34; Hecht and Cockburn 1989, 212-213).
The struggle of the Ecuadorian Huaorani against oil exploration and extractive colonizers (see Gedicks, this volume) has similarly received recurrent attention. For example, the Earth First! journal mentioned how, in 1987, one group of Huaorani, the Tagaeri, killed a nun and a Bishop who were trying to proselytize and pacify them, thereby promoting the objectives of the oil companies.
The most common tactics employed by solidarity activists involve Amnesty International-style letter writing campaigns on behalf of people involved in ecological struggles, and boycotts attempting to halt consumption of products whose production causes deforestation. Virtually every issue of RAN's World Rainforest Report, the Earth First! Journal, and Wild Earth--the three most influential radical environmental journals in the U.S.--contains updates of various resistance campaigns, urging readers to write letters applying pressure on officials. Boycotts of various sorts are ongoing and sometimes successful. For example, RAN led a successful boycott against Burger King, claiming it was importing beef raised on rainforest-cleared land. More important is the tropical timber boycott promoted since 1989 by Earth First!, RAN and numerous other groups. One priority of these efforts has been to halt the export of unsustainably harvested timber from Sarawak in Malaysia.
The effort to save the rainforest upon which these people depend has led to other innovative tactics. One involves clearing 3-4 meter wide corridors through the forest and replanting them with native palm trees in order to demarcate and thereby protect Huaorani territory that the Ecuadorian government previously, but without adequate enforcement, had promised would remain inviolable. Such corridors prevent "accidental" colonization--no one can claim ignorance of the boundary. John Seed of the RIC steered funds raised in the U.S. toward such efforts, including $4,000.00 from the Foundation for Deep Ecology (Seed 1994). By 1993, with the assistance of solidarity activists, the Huaorani had planted 100,000 native palm trees in corridors 130 kilometers long. They further demarcated the boundary by erecting metal signs reading "Huaorani territory," marked with cross spears.
John Seed's passion to save the rainforests was not initially motivated by concern for forest dwellers. Now he finds himself deeply involved in indigenous human rights struggles. Once the battle for the rainforest brought him into close proximity to its peoples, he realized that without defending the people who had lived sustainably in it, the forest itself could not be saved. He is amused by the ironies of certain strategic innovations, such as cutting down portions of the rainforest to save it and its people.
The reason for this sense of irony is that Seed and other radical environmentalists have also become involved in "eco-forestry," sponsoring logging with wokabout somils. These portable saws are carried into the forest and used to cut and mill logs. This type of logging eliminates the need for roads, road building, and heavy equipment, that cause most of the destruction associated with large-scale commercial logging. The idea is to reduce the impact of logging while increasing local incomes, thereby eroding the incentive for local people to support industrial forestry. Seed has also sought funds to purchasewokabouts for ecoforestry projects in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands (Seed 1990). In 1993 in PNG, such "ecoforestry" tactics were reported by RAN to be well underway (Belcher and Gennino 1993:33), leading Seed to solicit additional funds from the U.S. for another innovation, "to train participants in the care and use of waterbuffalo" for hauling the sawn timber from locations far from roads (Seed 1994).
The resistance to logging by the Penan and Iban tribes in Sarawak has probably drawn more radical environmentalist attention and solidarity action than any other popular ecological resistance movement. Given their willingness to risk arrest, it is not surprising that their resistance captures the radical environmental imagination. In a typical pattern, the rebellion of these traditionally nomadic, foraging peoples was fueled by the devastation of their land-base by logging. In 1982, "the [more] assertive Iban tribe blew up twenty-five bulldozers and logging trucks after loggers refused to leave their lands," repeating such tactics four years later (Scarce 1990:151). In 1987, the Penan began a series of anti-logging blockades which they have sustained well into the 1990s. These blockades were initiated on the advice of Bruno Manzer, a Swiss citizen who had been living among the Penan since 1984 (Snow 1994). By 1993, U.S. funds to feed the blockaders were being funneled to them through John Seed and his allies.
The blockades have inspired an international campaign to boycott Sarawakian timber (see Gedicks, this volume). Within the limits of their usually meager resources, Earth First!ers and other radical environmentalists have launched direct efforts to halt the export of forest products and to stimulate international outrage over the destruction of these forests and peoples. In 1989, thirteen international activists arrived in Sarawak, including Earth First! activists from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden, and a woman from "Robin Wood," a German radical environmental faction founded in 1982. Their objective was to champion the Penan and Dyak resistance. Six of them eventually locked themselves to 60-foot cranes, preventing for one day the loading of timber. Others spirited photographs out of the country for international distribution (Wilson 1991). Earth First!, RAN, the RIC, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, along with numerous smaller groups, have repeatedly demonstrated in protest of tropical timber imports into the U.S., UK, Australia, Germany and Japan. The boycott has reduced Malaysian timber exports, especially to Europe, and to some degree in the U.S.
Reporting on the indigenous resistance in Sarawak, Earth First! again attends to the nature-based spirituality of the Iban and Penan, implying that they share deep ecological perceptions: "As nomadic people [the Penan] need the forest for their food, medicines, and spiritual identity... They joined together [in these blockades] to speak for the ancient trees, for all life in the jungle and for their grandchildren" (Caruso and Russell 1992; Penan Leaders 1993).
No country has experienced greater diversity of popular ecological resistance than the Philippines. The struggle of Kalinga and Bontoc peoples to prevent a dam threatening to inundate their burial grounds and villages, and another struggle by farmers in the San Fernando province to stop and control logging, have gained international attention (see Porio in this volume and Broad and Cavanagh 1993, ch.4; Durning 1992).
Another indigenous struggle in the Philippines, this time against an energy project threatening a sacred mountain, has drawn the attention of the Earth First! journal. A solemn intertribal blood compact to defend their land, "even to the last drop of blood," was made among the indigenous Lumad communities in 1989. Further threats of armed rebellion were articulated the following year, "We are willing to take up arms, if necessary, to defend our rights to survive as a people of mother earth" (Broad and Cavanagh 1993, 34; cf. Durning 1992: 5-6, 38-39). Once again, a discussion in the Earth First! journal linked the resistance of the Bagobo elders (who come from one of the Lumad groups) to their nature-spirituality. The Bagobo view themselves as "the stewards of the mountain," reported the journal, "engaged by the spirits to protect the ecological and spiritual sanctity of the lands" (Fay and Barnes 1989).
Earth First! has also closely followed the native Hawaiian and environmentalist resistance to geothermal projects, which traditionally religious Hawaiians believe will injure Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, whom they fear will retaliate (Faulstich 1990). This resistance has led to mass demonstrations including one resulting in 133 arrests (RAN 1990). After the withdrawal of the geothermal development company, the Earth First! journal proclaimed, "Pele's power is still strong" (Pele Defense Fund 1994).
Many other struggles are discussed in Earth First!, including those of the Karen, Karenni, and Moi in Myanmar (formerly Burma). These tribes have become so desperate in their efforts to preserve their teak forests that they have threatened to attack the loggers directly. Strictly non-violent movements, such as the Gandhian Chipko "tree hugging" movements of India, are also considered kindred movements (see McRae 1994; Akula in this volume; Taylor and others 1993:72-76; Schelling 1991; Berreman 1989; and Shiva 1988).
Earth First!ers also believed (or at least hope) that radical ecological resistance is proliferating in the industrial world. The rebellions in Eastern Europe are viewed as ecologically motivated (Scarce 1990, 141). Further evidence is found in the emergence of Earth First!-style actions in Czechoslovakia in opposition to the Gabcikovo dam project (see Kolenka 1993), in England where activists claim significant victories in resisting road building, and Switzerland where there have been violent anti-automobile demonstrations. And great hope is derived from the Celtic renewal and ecological resistance movements of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (see e.g., Oxford Earth First! 1993; Burbridge and Torrance 1993; and McIntosh, Wightman and Morgan 1994, and Hill and others in this volume). Even more militantly, in the Fall of 1993 the "Earth Liberation Front" announced that it had established twenty clandestine cells which had already caused over two million British pounds damage to England's "earth rapers." The "elfs" proclaimed that they had emerged from the British EF! movement (which had not engaged previously in ecotage), and claimed they had coordinated "earth nights" across several continents on pagan holidays. They invited synchronized sabotage during the Halloween holidays (ELF 1993).
Any overview of Earth First!'s international efforts must mention the export of the "road show" strategy to Europe, and as of this writing, the founding and support of Institutes for Deep Ecology (by this and similar names) in England, Germany, Poland, and Russia. Such institutes of "applied deep ecology" are rapidly becoming centers for Earth First! style-political resistance and for promoting spiritual awakening of reverence and compassion for the natural world. Toward this latter end, the Council of All Beings and other newly-developed ritual processes are regularly conducted throughout Europe, especially in these countries. Such evangelical strategies will likely expand the deep ecology movement in Europe, as they have in the U.S.
In North America, the early 1990s witnessed increasing efforts by Earth First!ers to act in solidarity with this continent's indigenous nations. Such solidarity is expressed through support of groups such as the Apache Survival Coalition, which has been resisting telescope construction desecrating an ecologically sensitive mountain in Arizona, and the Coalition for Nitassian, which is comprised of Innu and Cree Indians and non-indian solidarity activists who have been resisting Hydro Quebec's hydroelectric dam projects (see Gedicks in this volume). Such groups multiplied rapidly in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, several new international environmental "umbrella" groups were formed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Arctic to Amazonia Alliance, and the Native Forest Network. Each has had significant involvement from Earth First! activists. Each is committed to native peoples and the biological integrity of the regions in which they live. Each hopes to nurture the recently evolving but fragile alliances between Indians and environmentalists in North America.
The preceding overview has introduced diverse narratives of resistance, from the outlines of Earth First!'s own stories, to accounts of international environmental resistance viewed primarily through the perceptions and hopes of Earth First! activists, supplemented by scholarly treatments where available and relevant. Through international networks of solidarity and resistance, diverse stories merge into a cross-cultural narrative about the global emergence of popular ecological resistance.
For those prone to environmental romanticism, it is easy to be swept up by such narratives where good triumphs over evil and communities of humans and non-humans find their way back to an Edenic harmony. Those willing to risk physical harm or personal liberty to right wrongs and confront us with a moral challenge deserve a fair hearing before they are incarcerated and we turn away indifferently. This book allows these storytellers to pose their questions. It also brings us full circle to the existential questions posed at the outset of this chapter: Do these stories move us? Do they make sense?
But these stories also raise further questions not usually pondered by those wrapped up in them. For example, do the storytellers assume facts not in evidence? Do they exaggerate their claims to conform them to their hopes? Is popular ecological resistance rapidly spreading across the planet? Is it significantly and increasingly animated by deep ecological spiritual sentiments, biocentric ecology, and radical politics? Or rather, are Earth First!ers and their kindred spirits projecting their own presuppositions and hopes onto movements that, although engaged in struggles with significant ecological dimensions, are neither deep ecological or even self-consciously environmentalist?
The perceptions and hopes of such radical environmentalists pose an even more basic question that has inspired the inquiry in this volume, "What is radical environmentalism?" Moreover, we can rightly wonder whether, when discussing movements emerging from very different cultural and ecological environments, such terms of reference themselves promote or hinder understanding.
When I began research exploring international grassroots "environmental" movements, I did so in part because I wanted a comparative reference point for understanding what I was discovering in the North American Earth First! movement. I wanted to know whether Earth First! style activism was unique to the industrialized world, or was increasing around the world. As I learned more about the international movements that Earth First! tended to celebrate, it was not obvious to me that their perceptions were accurate, that kindred forms of an international "radical environmentalism" were actually emerging. There seemed to be significant discontinuities between activist narratives and perceptions, and other accounts of the same movements. Gaps in scholarly analysis exacerbated the difficulty of assessing such discontinuities. Clearly these phenomena deserved much closer scrutiny than most had heretofore received. Moreover, it was obvious that advancing our comprehension of contemporary ecological resistance would best be accomplished through an interdisciplinary and international effort. Such realizations led to an earlier collaboration (Taylor and others 1993) that has now culminated in this volume.
I hope that this chapter has evoked some of the curiosity that has inspired this collaborative inquiry. The reader can compare the type of ecological resistance described in this chapter with those described in the subsequent case studies, and ponder the variety of scholarly questions these diverse narratives pose. In the final chapters we will survey the global panorama of ecological resistance conveyed in these pages, reflect on the impacts of these movements, consider the viability and prospects for those resistance movements that are animated by various forms of nature-spirituality, and reflect on what if any patterns among them make it possible to speak of the international emergence of a global environmental radicalism. I also hope we will allow these narratives to pose their questions and claims directly to us as individuals--that we do not get so wrapped up in the fascinating effort to understand these movements as social phenomena that we lose sight of the high stakes, real-life dramas these case studies present. The struggles described in these pages matter, they are life and death struggles, they demand a personal response.