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The Truth About Earth First! and Loggers

Earth to Earth First!, over... - Ignorance is Bliss

By Crawdad Nelson - Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 12, 1990

While it is charming to watch the struggle for consensus, and to read detailed accounts of meetings without portfolio, and to keep up to date on which wing respects the other, etc., it's becoming difficult to sort out where and when the anarchists plan on actually making the necessary link to the worker which has for some time now been that avowed goal of the non organization Earth First!

Earth First! has an image problem. The ungrammatical logo, while appealingly rebellious, is but an irritating trifle. The long hair, wild clothes and conjured hordes do little to reassure the workers of Fortuna, Fort Bragg, Eureka, McKinleyville, etc. and in many cases undoubtedly work against the noble aims of the movement. Vocabulary has superceded labor. What's needed is less debate, less bellyaching, less self interested whining over the sexual orientation of the frigging undefinable nebula of progress, and some actual work. I know it's a foreign concept to many in the movement, but work (sweat, slivers, backache, ill humor and etc.) is what EF! needs to concentrate on.

It sounds like real fun to jump around in the highway and make fun of the people who build the roads we all use to travel from one momentous event to the other, and no one would relish sitting in a tree singing folk songs more than myself, but the time has come to act out the fantasy of alternative logging. The documentary films made last summer show clearly how it's done.

Some of the folks who insist loggers ought to start working on stream rehabilitation, reforestation, putting roads to bed and the myriad chores of the future ought to have their parents buy them some tools, axes, shovels, come alongs, and rope are good things to start with. You might want a pair of boots.

The loggers don't believe you are serious. I don't believe it half the time either. If you are, prove it. Quit disrupting and lead by example.

Proposition 130 was an ill fated, doomed piece of law from the minute it was written. The commercials were stupid. The Arbit millions backfired. It's time to forget about it and get real.

If workers, who are far from unanimous in the best of times, see real work being done by preservationists, a significant fraction will abandon the doomed corporations and willingly enliven the opposition.

Demonstrations do little but embarrass everyone involved. Holistic forestry already provides living wages for preservation minded, realistic, forward looking people. Workers, not loaders, have a chance of convincing other workers that there can be another way.

A good friend of mine in Crescent City is working full time at a mill in Brookings and devotes his spare time to developing a holistic operation. He wonders why so many people run around spouting half truths and misunderstanding when they could be working. So do I.

If the aim of the demo's is to save timber, they don't work. If they are meant to create media celebrities, fine, keep at it. Are we to believe Harry Merlo and the distinguished gentlemen at GP and Simpson are going to give in and call it a day because a protestor at the front gate gets on the evening news? Public opinion is against disruption in every instance, when we look at the bottom line. I would think the recent elections proved that quite handily.

Workers in many cases resent being force fed ideas by the companies and (corrupt) unions, but they feel little choice. They are not, now or ever, going to drop their tools and start running about with a lot of outrageous people who refuse to be defined and seem to have no firm ideas about what to do next. There is ecological devastation on a grand scale in the woods, and many willingly admit it, although a sizable minority don't and probably never will. There are people who would cut the last tree on earth even if they lived on the apples. People are just like that, and it's A damn shame. The spotted owl is the butt of jokes from Stanford to the bloody Yukon, mainly because folks would rather laugh than cry. It is far from certain, but an optimist has to feel that the majority of people will make the necessary sacrifices at the necessary time. But people prefer opportunity to desperation.

I've wasted too much breath over the last few years trying to explain to workers how it is that Earth First! has their interest at heart, or anywhere close to it. Provide yourselves with some rhetorical ammunition. Split some firewood, unplug some ditches, dig some oiled gravel out of a stream and haul it to Merlo's hottub. Do something constructive. I was going to say "use your imagination" but we see the good that has done. Record harvests, vacant watersheds, dry creeks, acres of stumps.

Last summer's frenzied logging, including the wreck of "Osprey Grove" was a direct consequence of the hysteria and paranoia brought on by threats to the status quo. It's like trying to fall a tree by insulting the bark. Won't work, ever, and it looks like shit.

There are plenty of disgruntled loggers and millhands running around, but you're not likely to see them at the mystical retreats in the high country where the grand concepts of Earth First! are entertained. Try the Milano, or the Golden West, around quitting time. And put on some decent clothes.

Judi Bari's Response:

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 26, 1990.

Crawdad Nelson's analysis of Earth First! and the timber issue in his recent article "Ignorance Is Bliss" is both shallow and inaccurate. He starts by repeating the timber industry stereotype of Earth First!ers as lazy, unemployed hippies, and tells us to go do some real work if we want to ally with the loggers.

Crawdad knows many of us personally, and I don't know who he thinks he is to talk down to us like that. In Humboldt County where Crawdad lives, the vice president of the union of the Simpson Pulp Mill openly associates with Earth First! and was recently re-elected to his union post. Of the 25 people at our last local Earth First! meeting, only two were students and the rest hold jobs including carpenter, auto-mechanic, child care worker, recycling center operator, office worker, and logger. Many of us have children, and we cook, clean, and grow our own food and homestead the land. Many of us also belong to local watershed associations and do regular unpaid stream restoration work in our neighborhoods. So we don't need Crawdad Nelson to tell us about work.

Crawdad's main point is that, instead of protesting the corporations' overcut, we should be setting up alternative logging operations. There are several things wrong with this idea. First of all, since most of us are working people, we don't have the capital to buy the logging and milling equipment we would need. This is the same reason the employees of MAXXAM, L-P, and G-P can't just quit their jobs and start doing things right. It's one of the basic laws of capitalism, and one of the ways the corporations maintain control.

Secondly, because the big corporations control the timber market, timber prices are based on a system that pays the workers as little as possible (including $0.85 an hour at the L-P Mexico mill), and gains efficiency at the expense of the long-term health of the forest. Non-destructive forestry is much more labor intensive than corporate logging, and alternative companies cannot compete in the corporate market.

It is true that there is an alternative-market--people who are willing to pay more for lumber that is logged in an environmentally sound manner, like we pay more for organic produce. But unlike the market for food, this market is limited by the fact that most people do not build their own houses, and therefore most lumber is bought by large development companies that are not willing to pay the higher prices. In fact, in some cases (Weyerhaeuser in particular) the timber corporations are the development companies.

Finally, setting up alternative logging operations will not in itself save the forest, because the corporations own much of the timber land. And, when they are finished destroying that, our government has shown itself only too willing to turn the national forests over to those same destructive corporations.

This is not to say that people shouldn't engage in alternative forestry, or that we shouldn't support efforts such as those of Jan Iris to build the kind of logging operations we need to survive in the future. We can and must build the shell of a new society within the decadent old one. But we must recognize that those operations are limited in scope by the laws of corporate capitalism, and they cannot, by themselves, end the corporations' destruction of the Earth.

This is why, in addition to trying to live lightly on the Earth, we Earth First!ers continue to confront the corporations, Yet Crawdad actually claims that our protests are the cause of greed logging we are demonstrating against. Earth First! didn't double Pacific Lumber's redwood cut to pay for MAXXAM's junk bond takeover--but we helped make a national issue of it when Hurwitz did. And if Earth First! had not gone to Osprey Grove those trees would not have been saved. They just would have been cut down last July without the public outrage that arose over L-P's slaughter of Osprey Grove after our protests in September.

Just one year ago, I debated Crawdad Nelson in the pages of [The Anderson Valley Advertiser] when he blamed the workers for the destruction of the forest. Now he's a born again worker and he's blaming Earth First! I don't know why Crawdad has so much trouble with this concept. It's not the loggers, it's not the environmentalists. It's the corporate millionaires like Charles Hurwitz and Harry Merlo who are pillaging the Earth. I don't know if we can build a strong enough coalition to stop them before the forest is destroyed. But the effort will not be helped by people like Crawdad promoting timber industry stereotypes and blaming the messengers.

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