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revolutionary ecology

Earth First! Means Social War: Becoming an Anti-Capitalist Ecological Social Force

By Liam Sionnach - Earth First! Journal, April 3, 2009 [PDF Available]

Glossary of Terms

affect:

1. A material influence or alteration that produces empowerment. 2. To act upon (as a person or a person’s mind or feelings) so as to provoke a response; influence. Affective struggle changes those struggling, as well as the world around them.

effect:

The power to produce external results. Her protest had no effect.

desire:

A productive force; the information that circulates through bodies and produces action. We don’t have desires, we are produced through and as vessels of desire.

social war:

The narrative of “class struggle” developed beyond class to include the complexities and multiplicities of all social relations. Social war is conflict within all hierarchical social relations.

This is another contribution to the ongoing discussion about evolving EF! — perhaps beginning again, from a different angle.

The Politics of Climate Change

Author Unknown - 2009

In recent years climate change has loomed large in the public imagination. Scientifically, there is little doubt that it is a real threat to the future of human civilisation. The greenhouse effect has been known about since the early 19th century — gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour trap heat from the sun, causing the climate of the planet to heat up over time. Probably the most spectacular known example of this effect in action is on Venus.

As recently as the 1960s it was thought that Venus might have a climate that could support life. However, in 1962, a US space probe measured its surface temperature at 425°C. Billions of years ago, it had a climate similar to that of earth today — but a runaway greenhouse effect turned it into a ball of fire.

The existence of the greenhouse effect is beyond doubt, as is the fact that humans have been busily pumping large volumes of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. The only matter for scientific debate concerns exactly what effect the greenhouse gases are having on our climate. As scientists have come up with new and better ways of measuring climate changes, an alarming consensus has emerged.

The global climate has been heating up significantly due to human activity and during the course of the 21st century temperatures will rise at least 1°C more and perhaps as much as 6.5°C. This is likely to have a cataclysmic effect on human civilisation.

Most alarmingly, the melting of ice sheets will see rises in sea levels that will threaten coastal settlements, but that is not the only risk. Any increased volatility in our climate is almost certain to leave it in a state where it is much less capable of sustaining billions of people.

In many ways, the identification in advance of the great risks that human society faces from greenhouse gases is a triumph of modern science. Climatic patterns are immensely complex and to arrive at the current scientific consensus on climate change has required a vast range of sophisticated experiments, new means of measurement and exceedingly elaborate computer models.

Were it not for the powerful tools of modern science, humanity would have walked blindly into an environmental catastrophe that might have wiped it out. However, there is a big gap between understanding the problem and coming up with a way of addressing it.

A summary and examination of the environmental crisis and its causes, and how we think that the problems can be solved.

Originally Published at libcom.org - October 9, 2006

The Earth is facing an environmental crisis on a scale unprecedented in human history. This environmental crisis is already responsible for high levels of human suffering. If the crisis continues to develop at its current rate, the ultimate result will be the extinction of human life on the planet.

We call for action to end the environmental crisis because of the threat it poses to humankind, and because we recognise that nature and the environment have value in their own terms.

The main environmental problems include:

Air pollution: creates global warming (or climate change): a general increase in planetary temperatures that will severely disrupt weather patterns causing mass floods, droughts, chaotic climate fluctuations and disease killing millions; destroys the ozone layer that filters out dangerous cancer-causing rays from the sun; turns rain water into acid that destroys plant and animal life. It also causes respiratory and other diseases amongst humans which kills over 30,000 people a year in the UK1.

Solid waste: the sea and the land environments are poisoned by the dumping of dangerous industrial wastes (such as mercury and nuclear waste); the use of materials that nature cannot break down in packaging and in other products, particularly disposable products, have turned many parts of the world into large rubbish dumps. This is also a waste of finite resources and it poisons and injures people.

Soil erosion: this takes place in both the West and the so-called “developing” world, and is the result of factors such the (mis-)use of chemical fertilisers, dangerous pesticides etc., as well as inappropriate land use, land overuse, and the felling of trees. For these reasons, soil is eroded at a rate faster than that at which it is being produced which contributes to rural poverty2

Extinction: plants and animals are being made extinct at a faster rate than any time since the dinosaurs died out, 60 million years ago. This results in the loss of many species, and undermines the eco-sphere on which all life depends.

The Environmental Crisis

By the Workers' Solidarity Federation - January 1, 2005

The world is facing a very serious environmental crisis. Key environmental problems include air pollution, the destruction of the ozone layer, vast quantities of toxic waste, massive levels of soil erosion, the possible exhaustion of key natural resources such as oil and coal, and the extinction of plants and animals on a scale not seen since the death of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago. We think that this crisis is likely to have catastrophic effects in the future. Even today, the negative effects of the crisis are evident in the form of growing deserts, increased rates of cancer, and the loss of plant species which could hold out cures for diseases for diseases such as AIDS etc.

What caused the crisis?

We disagree with those environmentalists who blame the crisis on modern machine production. Many dangerous, environmentally destructive technologies and substances (for example, coal power stations, non-degradable plastics which do not rot in the ground) can be replaced with safer and sustainable industrial technologies (for example, solar technology, starch-based plastics). We think that modern forms of production have many potential advantages over small-scale craft production. Such as greatly increasing the number of essential products like bricks produced, and freeing people from unpleasant toil. We also disagree with the argument that says that workers and peasants cause the crisis by consuming “too many” resources. Most goods consumed in the world are consumed by the middle class and ruling class.

Instead, the real blame for the environmental crisis must be laid at the door of capitalism and the State. These structures create massive levels of inequality which are responsible for much ecological devastation. How? The accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of the few is associated with excessive and unjustifiable high levels of consumption by the ruling elite. The poverty caused by the system also creates environmental problems. For example, by forcing the poor to cut down trees for firewood, exhaust the tiny bits of farm land that they own in a desperate attempt to provide food, pollute rivers because they lack proper plumbing facilities etc.

The Environment

By the Workers' Solidarity Federation - January 1, 2005 [PDF File Available]

1. General Introduction

1. The Earth is facing an environmental crisis on a scale unprecedented in human history. This environmental crisis is already responsible for high levels of human suffering. If the crisis continues to develop at its current rate, the ultimate result wil be the extinction of human life on the planet.

2. We call for action to end the environmental crisis because of the threat it poses to humankind, and because we recognize that nature and the environment have value in their own terms. Although we hold human life above all other life on the planet, we do not think that humans have the right destroy animals, plants and eco-systems that do not threaten its survival.

3. The main environmental problems include:

3.1. Air pollution: destroys the ozone layer that filters out dangerous rays from the sun; creates a general increase in planetary temperatures (the greenhouse effect) that will severely disrupt weather patterns; turns rain water into acid that destroys plant and animal life; causes respiratory and other diseases amongst humans.

3.2. Solid waste: the sea and the land environments are poisoned by the dumping of dangerous industrial wastes (such as mercury and nuclear waste); the use of materials that nature cannot break down in packaging and in other products, particularly disposable products, have turned many parts of the world into large rubbish dumps as well as wasting resources; poisons and injures people.

3.3. Soil erosion: this takes place in both the First and the Third World, and is the result of factors such the (mis-)use of chemical fertilizers, dangerous pesticides etc, as well as inappropriate land use, land overuse, and the felling of trees. For these reasons, soil is eroded at a rate faster than that at which it is being produced; contributes to rural poverty [1].

3.4. Extinction: plants and animals are being made extinct at a faster rate than any time since the dinosaurs died out, 60 million years ago; results in the loss of many species, and undermines the ecosphere on which all life depends.

Welcome to Seattle, WTO: Judi Bari debates Karl Marx

By Walt Sheasby libcom.org, November 28, 1999

The following "debate" is actually a composite of quotations by Judi Bari from Revolutionary Ecology and Karl Marx from various sources cut and pasted into what appears to be a dialog. While it's impossible to say whether or not Marx and Bari would have ever debated or dialogued thusly, it is likely the two would have agreed on much, as they seem to do here.  

Moderator: Welcome to our dialogue. Today our guests are the very respected Judi Bari, who lived from Nov. 7, 1949 to March 2, 1997, and Karl Marx, whose lifetime began May 5, 1818 and ended on March 13, 1883. Ms. Bari was an ecological activist in the Earth First! organization and because of that her life was almost ended by a bomb attack. She survived that, but later died at age 48 of breast cancer. Dr. Marx is easily recognized as one of the most important figures in the history of economics and socialism, although many of his ideas remain unknown, particularly in the area of political ecology, as distinguished from political economy.

Our topic for this dialogue today is, in fact, Revolutionary Ecology, and we will allow our guests to explain in their own words how they understand this approach, and where they might agree or disagree. My own role will be only to pose some questions and give each the opportunity to respond.

To begin, Judi Bari, can you tell us about the terms you use in describing your philosophy? There seem to be a number of concepts that are often counterposed, like Deep Ecology versus Eco-socialism, or Naturalism/Humanism versus Biocentrism. Can you clarify your own orientation?

Judi Bari: Deep ecology, or biocentrism, is the belief that nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are part of nature, one species among many. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans. And biodiversity is a value in itself, essential for the flourishing of both human and non-human life. (1)

Moderator: Dr. Marx, you've also stressed that humans are part of nature and that this totality is constantly being transformed by interaction that you call 'Metabolism.' What do you mean by that?

Karl Marx: The labour process...is the necessary condition for effective exchange of matter between man and Nature; it is the ever-lasting Nature-imposed condition of human existence. (2) The great majority of things regarded as products of nature, e.g. plants and animals, are the result in the form in which they are now utilized by human beings and produced anew, of a previous transformation effected by means of human labour over many generations under human control, during which their form and substance have changed. (3)

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.

Class Struggle and the Environmental Crisis: A South African Anarchist Pamphlet

By Zabalaza - ca 1995

The Earth is facing an environmental crisis on a scale unprecedented in human history. This environmental crisis is already responsible for high levels of human suffering. If the crisis continues to develop at its current rate, the ultimate result will be the extinction of human life on the planet.

We call for action to end the environmental crisis because of the threat it poses to humankind, and because we recognise that nature and the environment have value in their own terms. Although we hold human life above all other life on the planet, we do not think that humans have the right to destroy animals, plants and eco-systems that do not threaten our survival.

Read More - Download the PDF version of this document.

A Conversation with Earth First! Activist Judi Bari

by Christine Keyser - On the Issues, Summer 1991

The spirit of Mother Jones lives on today in the backwoods of Northern California. The North Coast's most eloquent anti-chainsaw organizer, Earth First's! Judi Bari, is back at work defending the ancient forests from corporate slaughter after surviving a crippling car bomb in Oakland last May and the FBI's subsequent attempt to pin the blame on her and her companion Darryl Cherney. Just as the grandmother of the American labor movement fought King Coal a century ago, Bari has taken on the Big Timber barons armed with a bullhorn and a diehard credo, "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth."

Ban's battlecry has reverberated from California's redwood forest to Wall Street to embrace a broad-based progressive agenda rooted in a profound reverence for the earth and its creatures. For the chief architect of 1990's Redwood Summer— the celebrated nonviolent campaign to save the vanishing remnants of California's once verdant old-growth coastal forest—stopping environmental destruction has profound urgency.

Bari has grafted environmentalism onto peace, social justice, equal rights and other progressive concerns. A former Maryland labor organizer, she is a longtime crusader for the dispossessed, the disenfranchised and the downtrodden in factories, fields and offices across the land.

Bari has put her organizing skills to work on the North Coast building coalitions with timber workers to fight corporate abuse. She founded a Mendocino chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World and represented a group of mill workers who were poisoned by leaking PCBs at Georgia Pacific's Fort Bragg pulp mill.

In a wide-ranging interview at her rustic "hippie shack" in the backwoods of Mendocino County where she lives with her two young daughters, Bari shared her perspectives on the impact of Redwood Summer, progressive coalitionbuilding in the 1990s, the "feminization" of Earth First!, and the departure in August of Earth First! co-founder, Dave Foreman, who, in a parting swipe, publicly denounced Bari and her feminist compatriots for injecting "class struggle" and "humanism" into an organization he conceived to preserve wilderness.

Why I am not a Misanthrope

By Judi Bari - Earth First! Journal, February 2, 1991

In last EF! Journal (Yule, 1990), Chris Manes responds to the question "Why are you a misanthrope?" by saying "Why aren't you one?" After all, humans have a 10,000 year history of massacres, wars, ecocide, holocaust, etc., so the burden of proof is on us non-misanthropes.

I would like to respond to Manes' challenge, and my answer has nothing to do with humanism, anthropocentrism, or the belief that humans are a "higher" life form. Unlike Murray Bookchin, I reject that claim from the git-go. I believe in biocentrism, and think that all life forms are equal. I agree that human population is totally out of control. And I am as appalled as any misanthrope at the havoc that humans have wreaked on the natural world.

But I disagree with Manes' conclusion that the problem is "humankind." You cannot blame the destruction of the earth on, for example, the Quiche tribes of Guatemala or the Penan of Malaysia. These people have lived in harmony with the earth for 10,000 years. The only way you could identify the earth's destroyers as "humankind" would be to exempt such people from the category of "human." Otherwise you would have to admit that it is not humans-as-a-species, but the way certain humans live, that is destroying the earth.

Manes briefly acknowledges that these ecologically sound human cultures exist, but he dismisses them as trivial because "the fact is most of the world now mimics our dissolute ways." This statement completely ignores the manner in which "most of the world" was forced to abandon their indigenous cultures or be destroyed. You cannot equate the slave and the slave-master. Only after massacres, torture, ecocide and other unspeakable brutality did the peoples of the world acquiesce to the conquering hordes with their culture of greed and destruction.

Technocratic man, with his linear view of the world, tends to see tribal societies as earlier, less evolved forms of his own society, rather than as alternative, simultaneously existing methods of living on the earth. The presumption is that, given time, these cultures would somehow be corrupted like ours. But there is no evidence whatsoever that these ancient civilizations would have changed without our violent intervention. So it is not humans, but industrial-technocratic societies, that are destroying the earth.

In the same manner that misanthropy blames all humans for the crimes of the industrial/technocratic society, so does it blame all humans for the crimes of men. The list of atrocities for which Manes condemns the human race—massacres, wars, ecocide, holocaust—are not the work of women. Of course a few women can be found and paraded out who participate in the male power structure. But by and large, throughout history, wars and atrocities have been the territory of men. And the societies that engage in them have been run by men, in the interest of men, and against the interests of women. By categorizing as "human" traits which are actually male, misanthropes are being androcentric (male-centered) instead of biocentric (life-centered) as they claim to be. Vandana Sheeva of the Chipko movement in India put it best. She said the problem is not humans. It is white, technocratic men who are destroying the earth.

So misanthropy is not a form of humility, as Chris Manes says. It is a form of arrogance. By blaming the entire human species for the crimes of white, technocratic men, Manes conveniently avoids any real analysis of who is responsible for the death of the planet. Not surprisingly, Manes himself is a member of the group that most benefits from our consumptive society—privileged white urban men.

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