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Ed Abbey

Capital Blight: Who’re You Calling “Immigrant”, Pilgrim?

By x344543, May 5, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A recent article on thinkprogress.org details a jingoist anti-immigration group’s efforts to wrap itself in a green cloak and (once again) obfuscate the real cause of environmental destruction. The (inaccurately named) organization in question, “Californians for Population Stabilization” (CAPS) attempted to use Earth Day (April 22) to argue that the primary cause of ecological destruction is immigration (read: an influx of poor brown skinned people from south of the US-Mexican border, naturally).

This tired old dog has been asked to hunt so many times, it’s hard to see how anyone could imagine that it can, but sure as I write these words, there it is.

I’ll admit that this is a bit of a trigger for me. I am, by any standards you could imagine, the descendents of varying strains of white, central European and Mediterranean immigrants of several generations back (five or six in most cases), but my ancestors (Jews, Irish, and Hungarians) suffered greatly at the hands of more dominant empires among those regions, so perhaps it has imbued me with a stronger sense of empathy for the downtrodden peoples in what currently constitutes “America”. I don’t take too kindly to insulting racist propaganda—even if it tries to fly a green flag, and CAPS certainly fits that description.

Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

It was inevitable that the two would meet, really. Earth First! was challenging the corporate extraction of resources, but it wasn’t combating it at its source: the point of production. The problem was that the business unions theoretically could, but in practice they would not. They were too invested in their role as junior partners in the capitalist economy, which left them incapable of fighting it. There was only one union in the United States that could, and luckily, it still existed, even if it was but a shadow of its former self.

That the IWW influenced Earth First! is obvious. If the opposite was true in the early days of Earth First!’s existence, it is difficult to say. Initially, there was no direct or textual reference made by the IWW to Earth First! in its official publication, The Industrial Worker, prior to February 1988, although there was a one-time reproduction of one of Mike Roselle’s images (frequently used in the Earth First! Journal’s “dear shit fer brains” letters section), slightly altered and used in the Industrial Worker’s own letters section in September 1983.

The IWW did take note of general environmental struggles and actions within the pages of the Industrial Worker. For example, in the October / November 1980 issue there was a lengthy article titled, “Big Mountain Dine & Hopi Bat­tle Mine Interests”, a struggle which Earth First! supported for many years. In the June 1981 issue included a lengthy article about the Bolt Weevils”—which predate Earth First!, but serve as one of its inspirations—called, “The Power Line Protest in West Central Minnesota”. Earth First!er Roger Featherstone, was once involved in this campaign. There was a similar, uncredited article about this movement, simply called “Bolt Weevils” in the May 1, 1984 issue of the Earth First! Journal. An isolated column (that does not mention Earth First!) called “Ecology Notes” appeared in the Decem­ber 1982 issue. The same column never appeared again, however. By 1983, articles about ecologically oriented workers’ struggles became more and more frequent, but Earth First! was never mentioned, even if Earth First! was involved in the struggle. Meanwhile, the Wobblies were rarely mentioned in the Earth First! Journal except for a few occasional letters from self-identified IWW members, or former members. [1]

Behind the scenes, however, individual Wobblies and Earth First!ers frequently came into contact with each other. Dave Foreman later revealed that he had regularly corresponded with Utah Phillips. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont had also been in contact with Foreman as well as Roger Featherstone, a veteran of several environmental campaign, who described himself as “a roving reporter for Earth First!” [2] In Tacoma, Washington, IWW members Barbara Hansen and Allen Anger lived in an apartment in the same building as the IWW hall along with long time member, and then branch secretary, Ottilie Markholt. They were friends with George Draffan, who had been a member of the IWW when he was in college, long before joining Earth First! in the 1980s. [3] Colorado IWW member and oilfield worker Gary Cox was also sympathetic to Earth First!. Cox had read The Monkeywrench Gang, become a subscriber to the Earth First! Journal, and had attended an Earth First! speaking event by Dave Foreman and Roger Featherstone at the University of Colorado. [4] A handful of IWW members were Earth First!ers themselves, including a musician known as “Wobbly Bob”. [5]

Nevertheless, the first actual mention of Earth First! in the pages of the Industrial Worker touched on the Cameron Road tree spiking and the injury to George Alexander.

Earth First! The Underbelly Exposed

By Chris Shillock - Libertarian Labor Review (Anarcho Syndicalist Review) #6, Winter 1989

Several years ago the activist community was fired by news of a group of militant ecologists who called themselves Earth First!. Anarchists particularly felt a kinship. Earth First!’s uncompromising defense of the environment and their rejection of government stewardship of the wilderness echoed our own experience of the futility of working within the system. Their use of direct action was taken from our own history. Their full-blooded all-out enthusiasm for nature promised a robust, holistic radicalism.

Lately, as people learned more about the group, some truly disturbing facets of Earth First!’s ideology have come to light. By now it is clear that not only is Earth First! hostile to any meaningful social analysis, but it is freighted with so much nationalist and racist baggage as to make them obnoxious to any worker.

Earth First!’s philosophy, also known as Deep Ecology, is set out in a book of that name by Bill Devall and George Sessions (Peregrine Smith, Salt Lake City, 1985). It borrows from Zen Buddhism, Native American religions and from Heidegger, but is based on an immediate intuition of the “wilderness experience.” They urge us to go into the woods, to just feel. The result will be that feeling of the oneness of all creation which we have probably all known when we find ourselves alone under the stars.

Deep Ecologists go on to reason that “The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman Life on Earth have value in themselves…These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.” Deep Ecologists condemn other social and scientific views as “anthropocentric” in contrast to their “biocentric” outlook. This epithet is hurled throughout the pages of their journal, Earth First!, to clinch a point or to dismiss opponents.

So far, okay, aside from a few quibbles in logic. Earth First! has the potential to be a noble and passionate worldview. Instead their concept of “biocentric egalitarianism” turns the corner into a Malthusian blind alley shadowed with dark visions of a vengeful Earth lashing back at the species that uses her. Malthusianism has always been a pseudoscience serving the need of right wing ideology. In the Nineteenth Century, Social Darwinists used Malthus’ simplistic predictions of a dwindling food supply to justify doing nothing to alleviate the misery of the poor. Variations of this philosophy have been used in the Twentieth Century to buttress everything from eugenics to Third World starvation.

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