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Revolutionary Ecology, Biocentrism, and Deep Ecology

By Judi Bari - 1995 | [PDF File Available]

I was a social justice activist for many years before I ever heard of Earth First!. So it came as a surprise to me, when I joined Earth First! in the 1980s, to find that the radical environmental movement paid little attention to the social causes of ecological destruction. Similarly, the urban-based social justice movement seems to have a hard time admitting the importance of biological issues, often dismissing all but "environmental racism" as trivial. Yet in order to effectively respond to the crises of today, I believe we must merge these two issues.

Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.

I believe we already have such a theory. It's called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement. The problem is that, in the early stages of this debate, deep ecology was falsely associated with such right wing notions as sealing the borders, applauding AIDS as a population control mechanism, and encouraging Ethiopians to starve. This sent the social ecologists justifiably scurrying to disassociate. And I believe it has muddied the waters of our movement's attempt to define itself behind a common philosophy.

So in this article, I will try to explain, from my perspective as an unabashed leftist, why I think deep ecology is a revolutionary world view. I am not trying to proclaim that my ideas are Absolute Truth, or even that they represent a finished thought process in my own mind. These are just some ideas I have on the subject, and I hope that by airing them, it will spark more debate and advance the discussion.

An answer to the jobs-environment conflict?

By Tony Mazzochi - Green Left - September 8, 1993

Our first concern is to protect the jobs, incomes and working conditions of our members. On the other hand, people who work in hazardous industries, as many union members do, want safe jobs and a healthy environment. We must do everything we can to provide a workplace and environment free from recognised hazards.

The only way out of the jobs versus environment dilemma is to make provision for the workers who lose their jobs in the wake of the country's drastically needed environmental clean-up, or who are displaced or otherwise injured by economic restructuring, or military cutbacks and shifts of manufacturing overseas.

It will take an ambitious, imaginative program of support and re-education — going far beyond the inadequacies and deceptive "job retraining" programs that really mean a downward spiral to low-paying service jobs or subsistence level unemployment income.

The GI Bill after World War II, an innovative and successful program, is the precedent upon which the Superfund for Workers is based. The GI Bill helped more than 13 million ex-servicemen and women between 1945 and 1972 make the transition from military service to skilled employment in the private sector. This program had a formidable price tag, but the country overwhelmingly approved it as an investment in the future. Education became the key to national economic recovery. Education remains just as powerful a force today and is the basis of a concept supported by OCAW called "The Superfund for Workers".

OCAW members are concerned with the environment — our record over the years demonstrates this very fundamental fact. However, our members also are concerned about their jobs. It is small comfort to know that the environment is improving, but our jobs no longer exist.

There is, obviously, a major contradiction to be overcome. We want jobs and a clean environment. Environmental organisations representing millions demand a clean-up of toxics and a halt to the continuing toxification of the environment. However, they lack a clear idea of how to accomplish that desirable goal without a loss in jobs or a mass movement into jobs that pay only the minimum wage.

Earth First! in Northern California – Interview with Judi Bari

By Douglas Bevington, Summer 1993 – reprinted in The Struggle for Ecological Democracy

Douglas Bevington: Please describe the region in which you are organizing and that region’s key players. How far do your activities and influence extend?

Judi Bari: The area is the northern California red-wood region, which at this point is mostly Mendocino and Humboldt counties. It’s a big, sprawling area, rugged and sparsely populated. There are only 80,000 people in Mendocino County, where I live, and there are no large towns, no urban centers. Humboldt is a little different be-cause they have a university, Humboldt State, and a large town, Eureka. Both counties are rural impoverished areas. Our county governments are broke. They are closing down libraries and cutting back on police. Because of this, and because of the lack of urban influence, there is kind of a “wild West” mentality. There are some towns—Whitethorn and Covelo come to mind—that are virtually lawless areas, over two hours’ drive from the nearest sheriff’s deputy.

There are three main corporations in the redwood region. Louisiana Pacific (L-P) is the biggest redwood landowner, with 500,000 acres spread over the entire area. Tied for second are Georgia-Pacific (G-P), which owns 200,000 acres in Mendocino County, and MAXXAM, which owns 200,000 acres in Humboldt.
L-P has been around since 1975, and they’ve been liquidating ever since they’ve been here. Last year, they even admitted that 90 percent of their marketable trees in this county have already been cut. They are a cut-and-run company and they are almost done. G-P has been here a little longer. G-P has just one big sawmill and it’s still running. But most of their timberlands have been clearcut. They are about 70 percent done, so it’s just a matter of time.

MAXXAM is probably the best known of the three companies, mostly because of its outrageous financial practices. The 200,000 acres now owned by MAXXAM used to be owned by Pacific Lumber Co. (PALCO), a 120-year-old locally owned company, one of the oldest in the area. PALCO didn’t clearcut, and they had the closest thing to sustainable logging practices around. Because of this, they have the most old growth left. They have the best of what is left in the world. But in 1986, MAXXAM Chairman Charles Hurwitz, a corporate raider from Texas, took over PALCO in a forced junk bond buy-out scheme and then tripled the cut of old-growth redwood to pay off their junk bonds. This area has had pretty much a singular economy based on timber. Many of the logging families here go back five generations. Everybody knows each other, everybody grew up together and often are related to each other. It’s hard to understand the phenomenon of the company town until you live in one. King Timber controls all aspects of the society—the jobs, the schools, the hospital, the newspaper, and the police.

This singular economy and isolated rural culture got interrupted around 1970, when the back-to-the-land hippies moved in with their politically sophisticated, radical urban culture. What the hippies do for a living is grow the best marijuana in the world. In the mid-1980s, they actually included marijuana in the agricultural report of Mendocino County and found that it was the biggest cash crop, bigger than timber. This gives people a way to live in this area without being economically dependent on timber. Because timber is such a fluctuating market of booms and busts, during the low periods it is the marijuana money that keeps the towns going. Garberville, in southern Humboldt County, is probably the best-known local town built up with marijuana money. Many early growers used their money to open “legitimate” businesses. As the hippies gained economic influence, they also gained political influence, including passing voter referendums on local issues and electing candidates to the Board of Supervisors.

So, we basically have a bipolar social situation, with the hippies and the loggers. Of course, there are other social/cultural groups in our community, including Mexicans, Indians, fishermen, etc. But the main players in the Timber Wars are the hippies, the loggers, and, of course, the big timber corporations.

The Limits of Environmentalism Without Class: Lessons from the Ancient Forest Struggle of the Pacific Northwest

By John Bellamy Foster - 1993, Monthly Review Press - Capitalism, Nature, Socialism

John Bellamy Foster is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He was served as the editor for Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, which is a project of Monthly Review Press. He has written numerous books, including The Vulnerable Planet and The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism. He is also a regular contributor to The Monthly Review.

Acknowledgment. The author would like to thank Michael Dawson, Chuck Noble, Doug Boucher, and Alessandro Bonanno for their comments and support at critical stages in the preparation of this article. Acknowledgment is also given to Judi Bari, whose criticisms were useful in the development of the final version of this manuscript.

This pamphlet is a joint project of Monthly Review Press and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism/Center for Ecological Socialism. It will be published in a slightly different form in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 4, no. 1 (March 1993).

Capitalism, Nature, Socialism (CNS) is an international journal of theory and politics which combines the themes of history and nature, society and environment, and economics and ecology, and promotes the ideals of ecological socialism and feminism. The journal is especially interested in joining the discourses on ecology; feminism; struggles for social and environmental justice; radical democracy; and the theory of capital and politics of class struggle.

CNS is published four times a year. The journal is edited by an International Editorial Board of 50 members from 18 countries and over 150 Editorial Consultants on every continent. CNS regularly publishes reports on red green politics in different countries; theoretical and empirical articles; debates; theoretical notes; conference reports; research notes; poems; review essays; and reviews.

Ecologia Politica, the Spanish language edition of CNS, is published in Barcelona and Capitalismo Natura Socialismo, the Italian language edition, in Rome. A Sibling journal, Ecologie Politique has been launched in Paris. Plans are being made for an international Forum of left ecology journals in different countries, spearheaded by Lokoyan Bulletin (India) and CNS (USA).

CNS is non-sectarian; it is affiliated with no political party or organized political tendency and is open to diverse views within the international red green and feminist movements. The journal seeks to maintain the highest possible standards of scholarship, as well as to encourage discussions and debates about all of the issues bearing on our subject.

IWA Rank-and-File Union Millworkers Reply: Victims of G-P’s Fort Bragg Mill PCP Spill Speak Out

Written by Ron Atkinson, Cheryl Jones, Joe Valdao, Julie Wiles, and Treva VandenBosch
Edited by Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 13, 1989, Mendocino Commentary, December 14, 1989 and the Industrial Worker, January 1990.

Web Editor's Note: all of these workers authorized Judi Bari and the IWW to represent them before OSHA hearings that soon followed.

Judi Bari’s Introduction: Unionism was hard won in the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1900’s, the IWW stepped in where the AFL feared to tread, and broke the stranglehold of the timber barons on the loggers and mill workers. The companies and the government fought back with terror and bru-tality eventually crushing the IWW and settling instead for the more cooperative “Business Unions”.

Today these unions have stood by and watched the erosion of the gains the people fought so hard to win. The following statement from five workers at the Georgia-Pacific mill in our area shows the situation timber workers are in today, both from the companies and the “Business Unions”.

Minutes of the founding meeting of IWW Local #1

Recorded by Judi Bari, x332349, November 19, 1989

The Mendocino-Humboldt General Membership Branch of the IWW held our first meeting on Sunday November 19, 1989. Fourteen (out of 24) members came.

Structure

We set up our basic structure as follows: Judi Bari was elected Corresponding Secretary and Anna Marie Stenberg was elected Financial Secretary. They were instructed to open a bank account and keep track of dues and other paperwork. Other than these utilitarian positions, we will have no officers. Decisions will be made by the members at the meetings. If events occur between meetings that require action, temporary decisions (subject to ratification at the next meeting) will be made by the Entertainment Committee. Membership on the Entertainment Committee is voluntary, and the people who volunteered were Mike Koepf, Treva VandenBosch, Judi Bari, Anna Marie Stenberg, Pete Kayes, and Bob Cooper.

Work So Far

The work of Our Branch was described: We are a General Membership Branch (GMB) and will take on whatever issues the members want, especially issues related to our workplaces. But so far our activities have been centered around providing support for timber workers who are fighting their employers’ destruction of forests, jobs, and working conditions. We hope to be a bridge between environmentalists and timber workers and help bring about community understanding of the workers’ problems.

Pete Kayes, employee of Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), in Scotia , talked about the failed attempt by workers to form an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and buy the company back from corporate raider Charles Hurwitz. Pete also gave out copies of the rank-and-file newsletter Timberlyin’ that he and others produce and distribute at the Scotia mill.

Treva VandenBosch, recently retired employee of Georgia Pacific (G-P) Corporation in Fort Bragg, told about being doused with PCBs in the G-P mill and receiving no help from the company or union (IWA Local #3-469, AFL-CIO). She walked off the job and single-handedly picketed the plant, eventually hooking up with Anna Marie and Mike (now also IWW members), who helped get the story out. The plant was finally closed for three days for clean-up, and OSHA fined G-P $14,000 for willful exposure of workers to PCB’s. G-P is appealing that decision, and the hearing will be on February 1, 1990 in San Fran-cisco. You must sign up in advance to be allowed to attend the hearing. We are asking all Wobs to sign up, even if you don’t expect to come, to demonstrate public interest. See enclosed forms.

Anna Marie told about Fort Bragg millworker Julie Wiles being arrested and led away in handcuffs for distributing a leaflet calling for fellow IWA Local #3-469 members to vote “no” on a proposed union dues increase. IWA shop stewards distributing pro-dues increase leaflets were not interfered with by the company. The IWA has not provided Julie with any support on her arrest and charges. We are asking all Wobs to come to Julie’s trial, and we have been helping her with her defense. Ten people showed up to support Julie at her arraignment.

Timber Wars: Footloose Wobs Urgently Needed

By Judi Bari, Industrial Worker, October 1989; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

"You fucking commie hippies, I'll kill you all!" A shotgun blast goes off and the Earth First!ers scatter. What started as a peaceful logging road blockade had turned violent when a logger sped his truck through our picket line and swerved it towards the demonstrators. The loggers also grabbed and smashed an Earth First!er's camera and, for no apparent reason, punched a 50-year old protester in the face, breaking her nose.

The environmental battle in the Pacific Northwest has reached such a level of intensity that the press now refers to it as the Timber Wars. At stake is the survival of one of the nation's last great forest ecosystems. Our adversaries are giant corporations--Louisiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific, and MAXXAM in northern California, where I live, joined by Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser in Oregon and Washington.

These companies are dropping trees at a furious pace, clogging our roads no less than 18 hours a day, with a virtual swarm of logging trucks. Even old timers are shocked at the pace and scope of today's strip-logging, ranging from 1000-year old redwoods, one tree trunk filling an entire logging truck, to six-inch diameter baby trees that are chipped up for the pulp-mills and particleboard plants.

One-hundred-forty years ago the county I live in was primeval redwood forest. At the current rate of logging, there will be no marketable trees left here in 22 years. Louisiana Pacific chairman Harry Merlo put it this way in a recent newspaper interview: "It always annoys me to leave anything lying on the ground. We don't log to a 10-inch top, we don't log to an 8-inch top or a 6-inch top. We log to infinity. It's out there, it's ours, and we want it all. Now."

So the battle lines are drawn. On one side are the environmentalists, ranging from the big-money groups like Wilderness Society and Sierra Club to the radical Earth First!ers and local mountain people fighting the front line battles in the woods. Tactics being used include tree-sitting, logging road blockading, and bulldozer dismantling, as well as the more traditional lawsuits and lobbying.

On the other side are the big corporations and the local kulaks who do their bidding. Tactics used by them have included falling trees into demonstrators, suing protesters for punitive damages (and winning), buying politicians, and even attempting to ban the teaching at a local elementary school of a Dr. Suess book, The Lorax, which the timber companies say portrays logging in a bad light.

Earth First! vs. the Rumor Mongers

By Lobo x99 (Franklin Rosemont) - The Industrial Worker, September 1988

The May (1988) issue of the Industrial Worker featuring Radical Environmentalism and especially the most radical environmentalists of all, the Earth First! movement, has provoked more enthusiastic discussion and action-and more controversy-than any issue of the paper in many a long year. Even before it went to press, word got around the Union regarding its content, and bulk orders started poring in from branches, delegates, and individual members to such an extent that we had to print 10,000 copies-not bad for a paper which, six months earlier, had a monthly press-run of only 3,000.

Fellow Worker Bruce, "Utah" Phillips, one of the greatest living Wobbly bards, recently called Earth First! "the IWW of the environmental movement." Since everyone knows that (the) IWW historically, signifies the most radical , most active, most creative, most daring, most effective, as well as sassiest, gutsyist, funniest, toughest and all-around best-in-its-class, this is a good description of Earth First!'s position in the environmental spectrum. Emphasizing that the roots of today's global ecological crisis lie in the inherently ecocidal patriarchal-industrial-capitalist system (and recognizing that USSR-style "state socialism" is just more of the same crap under another name), EF!ers have also perceived that you can't change this system by playing according to its repressive rules, and that militant direct action, Wobbly-style, is the most effective instrument of radical social transformation.

In the May Industrial Worker Wobblies and Earth First!ers-including several who are Wobblies and Earth First!ers-explored some of their many philosophical and practical points in common. Our specific aim was to promote a greater understanding of Earth First! among IWW members and sympathizers, and to introduce Earth First!ers to the IWW heritage and program. Our broader hope was to effect a greater degree of common action and mutual aid between the two movements in their struggle to subvert the dominant paradigm" and to protect the Earth from its profit-hungry corporate destroyers.

Once the May issue hit the stands our wildest hopes regarding its impact were quickly exceeded. It became clear at once that young rebel workers are far more interested in radical environmentalism than even we had realized. Moreover, from all over the continent reports have been coming in showing that Wobblies and Earth First!ers are eager not only to learn from each other but also to take action together effect our common goals. And last but not least, more new memberships, new subscriptions, new bulk orders, renewals of lapsed subs and contributions to the Industrial Worker sustaining fund have come into IWW headquarters since May than in any comparable period in anyone's memory.

Yes, fellow workers, the IWW is growing today as it has not grown in years, and there is no getting around the fact that one of the reasons it is growing is because of our fortuitous encounter-now increasingly taking on the character of an active, ongoing combat alliance-with the international Earth First! movement.

Workers and Wilderness

By Franklin Rosemont - Industrial Worker, May 1988

There is no other guiding light than that which is to be found in nature.

--Lautremont

Bourgeois ideology inherited from its Judeo-Christian forerunners a deep hatred of wilderness and, by extension, hatred and fear of all wild beings and things. Everyone knows that capitalism entered the world dripping with blood and gore, and that its few hundred years of domination have been the bloodiest and goriest in all human history. Its champions, however have always liked to present themselves as an eminently civilizing force, bringing Law'n'Order and Industry not only to societies variously described as savage, primitive, backward and underdeveloped, but also to remote regions previously held to be uninhabitable by humankind.

For those who are addicted to it, civilization is regarded as a universally good thing, a blessed condition of peace, prosperity and social harmony (it is generally conceded, however, that the reality falls somewhat short of this ideal). Above all, capitalist civilization has viewed itself as the deadly enemy of wilderness, which is portrayed as an essentially evil condition of absolute violence: the total war of all against each and each against all. As it happens, the exact opposite is closer to the truth, but civilization is founded on lies and more lies, and especially Big Lies.

The drama of bloody repression disguised as progress is the history of the New World. The puritans, whose devotion to Capital equaled if not exceeded their devotion to Christ (for most of them there was probably very little difference between the two, saw their "errand in the wilderness" as a mandate to civilize a continent that was, in their eyes, uninhabited--or at best, inhabited only by unimportant, dispensable heathen, if not by outright minions of Satan. massacre and genocide were the methods by which these typically Christian capitalists introduced the amenities of civilized life to the original human inhabitants of North and South America.

The non-human inhabitants fared no better over the years. The last passenger pigeon, whose immense flocks numbering billions once darkened the skies for days at a time, died in a zoo in 1914. The bison herds had been decimated long before that. No more does the piercing cry of the ivory-billed woodpecker ring through the boundless forests, for the forests have been so cut to pieces that ivory-bills can no longer live in them. A hundred and fifty years ago the great midwestern prairies were majestic oceans of wild grasses and flowers stretching as far as the eye could see. Where are they now? Gone, one and all: annihilated by the juggernaut of Progress and Profits.

It was a hell of a price to pay for indoor plumbing, plastic slipcovers and a medicine cabinet full of Valium.

Earth First!ers, Meet the IWW: Notes on Wobbly Environmentalism

By x322339 (Franklin Rosemont) - Industrial Worker, May 1988

Organized in Chicago in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World has been fighting the boss class and the megamachine—the industrial wreckers of the world—for [nearly a century] now and has chalked up quite a record for militant, hard-hitting, straight-from-the-shoulder direct-action style, rank-and-file democratic labor unionism. Ask any seasoned old fighter from any half-decent union he or she’ll tell you that the Wobblies set a standard that has rarely been approached and never beaten.

We don’t like to brag, so we’ll just refer you to a couple of good histories: Fred Thompson’s The IWW: It’s First Seventy Years and Joyce Kornbluh’s beautifully illustrated IWW anthology, Rebel Voices (both available from the IWW). In these books (and dozens of others you can find in … bookstores and libraries), you can read all about the epoch-making organizing drives, strikes and free-speech fights that the IWW has waged over the years, and that have made One Big Union an inspiration for every indigenous radical current that has come along to challenge the existing order. Civil rights, antiwar, anti-nuclear and student activists, the New Left, anarchists, feminists, and now animal-liberationists and radical environmentalists have all acknowledged the influence of the good ol’ rebel band of labor.

Here we’d like to note a few of the things that make the IWW different from other “labor organizations,” especially in regard to environmental and ecological issues.

First, in our view, the “official” so-called labor movement, the AFL-CIO, is not really a labor movement at all, but rather a corrupt statist, CIA-dominated bureaucracy whose specific function is to control labor. Some of these unions are undoubtedly better than others, and a few of them are able now and then to act honestly better than others, and a few of them are able now and then to act honestly and decently. But all of them are afflicted with outdated hierarchical structures and above all an idiotic ideology submissive to the capitalist system of wage slavery.

Consider, for example, a ridiculous bumper-sticker slogan promoted by several AFL-CIO unions: “Pollution: Love it or leave it.” This hideous inanity was supposed to save steel mills and oil-refineries in industrial hell holes like Gary, Indiana. In other words, the AFL-CIO mobilizes workers to defend pollution in order to save jobs that will create more pollution. Would a real labor movement, one responsive to the real interests of working women and men, do a thing like that?

Don’t think that this typical AFL-CIO slogan was some sort of accident. On the contrary, the AFL-CIO’s self-confessed love of pollution is consistent with its whole policy. After all, if you support capitalism—and you have to support the things that automatically go with it: militarism, war, racism, sex-ism, and pollution, in ever-increasing doses.

Instead of the imbecile slogan, “Pollution: Love it or leave it,” the IWW inscribes on its banner the ecological watchword, “Let’s make this planet a good place to live.” And we argue that the best way to accomplish this goal is to organize One Big Union of all workers to abolish the wage-system. The bosses are able to cause such vast environmental devastation because they have organized industry their way for their profit. The IWW says to the workers of all industries: Dump the bosses your backs, dump the ecocidal profit-and-wage system, and organize your jobs for yourselves, for your own good and for the good of the Earth!

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