One Decade of Earth First! Action in the “Climate Movement”

via Earth First Journal

The last ten years of ecological organizing under the Earth First! banner saw a significant shift in movement focus. Where defending old growth forests had taken center stage for much of the 90′s and early 2000′s, the fight against resource extraction became a defining characteristic of the last decade. What follows is a timeline highlighting Earth First! (EF!) participation in what has been referred to by some as the climate movement.

While EF! has never succumbed to the narrow fixation on counting carbon molecules as a strategy to save the planet, it has certainly played a role in shaping the so-called “climate movement” and inspiring the flurry of climate-centered organizing, particularly across the US and the UK.

We offer this retrospective as a reflection on movement evolution, a celebration of some amazing victories, and for any new-comers to EF!, an action packed introduction.

For those unfamiliar with EF!, it is a decentralized, non-hierarchical movement. Most EF! groups are small numbers of individuals who organize and act as they see fit. While EF! has never explicitly been an anarchist movement, its structure could easily be described as anarchistic.

The EF! movement recognizes anyone who believes in deep ecology, direct action and a no compromise strategy, and chooses to identify themselves as an Earth First!er. As such, we make no pretenses that this is a comprehensive timeline of EF! actions.

Without further ado…

The Womyn’s action group poses for a photo at the 2004 Straw Devil Action Camp in the Willamette National Forest. This camp is seen as the origin of TWAC

*Also in Nov 2003, activists organized to confront the FTAA Summit in Miami as part of the broad based global justice movement, which laid the foundation for the climate justice movement to come. Earth First! organizers played key roles in providing direct action trainings and mobilization infrastructure (as they had also done in previous global justice protests in Seattle, DC, and abroad.) Check out Miami Model film about the FTAA.

*In July 2004, EF! took action against Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in Maine, trashing the Governor’s mansion and blockading his driveway! Six were arrested, but the pressure was on and LNG plans off the coast were defeated soon after.

*Throughout the summer and spring of 2005, EF!ers executed direct actions in the areas proposed for massive logging plans in the aftermath of the 2002 Biscuit Fire of southern Oregon. This campaign sparked national dialogue about post-fire ecology and industry’s drive to exploit catastrophic weather events. Lessons from the Biscuit Fire in relation to climate change, land use policy and the increase of future fires is a topic which is still being studied by ecologists today.

*Feb 2006, EF! organizers attended their annual US winter gathering, where the Earth First! Climate Caucus was formed. [Read their founding statement here.] By May of 2006, the EF! Climate Caucus had become Rising Tide North America, and announced a call to action targeting the coming G8 Summit with “climate justice”-focused direct action. They immediately garnered the attention of major security firms like StratFor, as evidenced in this article. In the years to come, RTNA often collaborated with EF! organizers on various relevant actions.

*That summer, July 2006, EF! And RTNA manifested their hope to see a climate focus at the Summer Rendezvous by collaborating on the epic and infamous coal plant blockade in Carbo, VA.

*In 2007, many EF!ers focused on opposing the construction of I-69, a NAFTA Superhighway for transnational carbon-spewing truck traffic to tear up forests and farm land across southern Indiana. That July, following the EF! Rendezvous, “Hayduke’s Moving Company” staged mock evictions, dumping the contents out of I-69 planning offices and into the street in Petersburg and Oakland City, and activists shut down the I-69 planning office in Bloomington. By the following year, EF! was camped out along the route with a full time treesit blockade in the way of construction. This was one among dozens of direct actions against the road.

Everglades EF!ers enter a gator infested swamp under the noses of cops and security to expose the evils of FPL

Everglades EF!ers enter the gator-infested Barley Barber swamp under the noses of cops and security to expose the evils of FPL

*In Feb 2008, EF!ers in the Everglades blockaded a hotly-contended FPL construction site where the largest fossil fuel power plant in the US was being built. Twenty-six were arrested, and most all went to trial using the “necessity defense,” bringing experts—including a climatologist and hydrologist—to testify about the regional and global threats. This direct action campaign against FPL continued into the following year with several blockades and disruptions, including an encampment resulting from a stand-off over public access to an imperiled old-growth swamp which FPL claimed to own.

EF!ers occupy AMP Ohio offices against coal plant plans

*In July 2008, EF! again ended their annual summer gathering by taking over the corporate office of AMP Ohio, a company proposing a new coal plant in Meigs County.

*In 2008 we saw the beginning of “Treetopia,” a treetop occupation in ancient redwoods near Eureka, CA that won a victory in the summer of 2012

*In July 2009, EF! forest defenders in the Pacific Northwest gave a boost to the forest protection movement with a massive blockade in the Elliot State Forest of Oregon (check out the sweet video in this link).Blockaders made explicit connections between the need for intact forests and a stabilizing the climate.

*August 2009 and again in January 2010, members of Climate Ground Zero (founded by EF! co-founder Mike Roselle) treesit to halt blasting on a mountain top removal site in West Virginia and physically stop the permanent destruction of mountains.

Police defend TransCanada wind turbine from EF!, 2010

Police defend TransCanada wind turbine from EF!, 2010

*In July 2010, EF! pushed the envelope by taking direct action against big wind energy plans in Maine. The turbines were being located in endangered species habitat of the Canada lynx, and they were being built by none other than TransCanada (of Keystone XL fame) as an attempt to greenwash their tar sands operations.

*In Feb 2011, EF! activists made the climate-forest connection again, this time in Florida, where nearly 700 acres of pine flatwoods and wetlands (some of the most productive carbon-storing ecosystems) were slated to be bulldozed for a massive biotech research complex. A six-week canopy occupation in Briger forest brought attention to the plans and, thanks to EF! activists, the forest is still standing today.

*In July 2011, EF! challenged TransCanada from another angle—one people are a bit more familiar with now. In response to a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River and the Montana Governor endorsing the Keystone XL pipeline, folks occupied the Capitol building in Helena, MT. (Once again, check out the sweet video.)Also in July 2011RAMPS (formed by former Climate Ground Zero members) halts mountain-top-removal coal mining via treesits in West Virginia once again

*In June of 2012 EF!ers hold a barricade in Jersey Shore, PA against AquaAmerica, who evicted residents to place a frack-water withdrawal facility on the Susquehanna river. The blockade is ultimately evicted but the fight galvanized regional opposition to fracking.

EF! blockades a frack site in PA, 2012

EF! blockades a frack site in PA, 2012

*After the annual summer rendezvous in July 2012, EF!ers blockaded a road into a fracking site in the Moshannon State Forest of Pennsylvania. This was the first action to shut down operations on an active fracking site in the US. (Yet, again, sweet video.)

*Through 2012 and into 2013 , EF!ers including theEarth First! Climber’s Guild helped get Tar Sands Blockade literally “off the ground,” providing training and people to build and occupy multiple aerial blockades in Texas and numerous lockdowns (video link).

*In January 2013 the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands is signed by traditional indigenous societies and later ratified by Oglala Sioux and Northern Cheyenne governments. It is also signed by environmental groups and EF!ers (video link)

*Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance forms in Oklahoma, with help from EF! organizers, and continues a campaign of attrition with 11 lockdowns in 2013 10 of which are on the KXL construction sites. In the most recent action two Oklahomans are being charged with terrorism hoax for their Hunger Games-themed banner (inspired by theEarth First! Journal’s 2013 film fest logo!)

*In February 2013, following the Winter OC/Rondy, EF!ers shut down operations at GreenHunter waste water storage site (video link.). A crucial link in the life-cycle of resource extraction in high volume slick water horizontal hydraulic fracture drilling, GreenHunter has been applying for permits to barge their radioactive filth down the Ohio River. Due to this and other direct actions and mounting public pressure the Ohio legislature has a bill to ban injection wells.

EF! Blockades fracking proppant facility in NC, 2013

EF! Blockades fracking proppant facility in NC, 2013

*In July 2013 EF!ers upped the ante on fracking opposition byblockading a company responsible for producing frack proppants in North Carolina, while simultaneously releasing hundreds of addresses for similar secondary target locations internationally.

*Throughout 2013 resistance against tar sands infrastructure including Petcoke storage and pipe constructions kicks off in Michigan.

*In Oct 2013, Marcellus EF! Loyalsock Forest treesit in PA went into three weeks of occupying a site planned for an Andarko fracking operation. The operation is now on hold indefinitely (video).

EF!ers Blockading tar sands megaloads in Oregon

EF!ers Blockading tar sands megaloads in Oregon

*As this article is written, protests against tar sands megaload shipments in Eastern Oregon and Idaho by RTNA and the EF!ers of Cascadia Forest Defenders blockade roads in protest of refining equipment’s transport…

While the anti-extraction movement has gone global and is lead by dozens if not hundreds of localized resistance efforts, the Earth First! Newswire has been providing some of the most widespread and consistent coverage of this effort since 2010, including deep analysis and movement strategy discussions.

This February, join us in the Everglades for a week of camping, sharing, learning, face to face discussions and action at the annual EF! Organizer’s Conference and Winter Rendezvous.  We also extend the invitation add more events to this timeline throughout the week.

EF! Blockade in Elliot State Forest, 2009

EF! Blockade in Elliot State Forest, 2009

And this summer, EF! returns to Southern Cascadia

On that note, we could use your support in keeping the heat on. You can support the Earth First! movement by donating to the Earth First! Journal here. Thanks to all who have supported us in the past.

We look forward to seeing you in the struggle!

For the wild,

– Earth First! Journal Collective

Noam Chomsky: A Brief History of Anarchism

via In These Times

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Humans are social beings, and the kind of creature that a person becomes depends crucially on the social, cultural and institutional circumstances of his life.

We are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people’s rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations—in brief, the common good.

For perspective I’d like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

These range from very general principles, such as the truism that we should apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others (if not harsher ones), to more specific doctrines, such as a dedication to promoting democracy and human rights, which is proclaimed almost universally, even by the worst monsters—though the actual record is grim, across the spectrum.

A good place to start is with John Stuart Mill’s classic On Liberty. Its epigraph formulates “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges: the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.”

The words are quoted from Wilhelm von Humboldt, a founder of classical liberalism. It follows that institutions that constrain such development are illegitimate, unless they can somehow justify themselves.

Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.

Adam Smith, another Enlightenment thinker with similar views, felt that it shouldn’t be too difficult to institute humane policies. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments he observed that, “How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Smith acknowledges the power of what he calls the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.” But the more benign “original passions of human nature” might compensate for that pathology.

Classical liberalism shipwrecked on the shoals of capitalism, but its humanistic commitments and aspirations didn’t die. Rudolf Rocker, a 20th-century anarchist thinker and activist, reiterated similar ideas.

Rocker described what he calls “a definite trend in the historic development of mankind” that strives for “the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life.”

Rocker was outlining an anarchist tradition culminating in anarcho-syndicalism—in European terms, a variety of “libertarian socialism.”

This brand of socialism, he held, doesn’t depict “a fixed, self-enclosed social system” with a definite answer to all the multifarious questions and problems of human life, but rather a trend in human development that strives to attain Enlightenment ideals.

So understood, anarchism is part of a broader range of libertarian socialist thought and action that includes the practical achievements of revolutionary Spain in 1936; reaches further to worker-owned enterprises spreading today in the American rust belt, in northern Mexico, in Egypt, and many other countries, most extensively in the Basque country in Spain; and encompasses the many cooperative movements around the world and a good part of feminist and civil and human rights initiatives.

This broad tendency in human development seeks to identify structures of hierarchy, authority and domination that constrain human development, and then subject them to a very reasonable challenge: Justify yourself.

If these structures can’t meet that challenge, they should be dismantled—and, anarchists believe, “refashioned from below,” as commentator Nathan Schneider observes.

In part this sounds like truism: Why should anyone defend illegitimate structures and institutions? But truisms at least have the merit of being true, which distinguishes them from a good deal of political discourse. And I think they provide useful stepping stones to finding the common good.

For Rocker, “the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement.”

It should be noted that the American brand of libertarianism differs sharply from the libertarian tradition, accepting and indeed advocating the subordination of working people to the masters of the economy, and the subjection of everyone to the restrictive discipline and destructive features of markets.

Anarchism is, famously, opposed to the state, while advocating “planned administration of things in the interest of the community,” in Rocker’s words; and beyond that, wide-ranging federations of self-governing communities and workplaces.

Today, anarchists dedicated to these goals often support state power to protect people, society and the earth itself from the ravages of concentrated private capital. That’s no contradiction. People live and suffer and endure in the existing society. Available means should be used to safeguard and benefit them, even if a long-term goal is to construct preferable alternatives.

In the Brazilian rural workers movement, they speak of “widening the floors of the cage”—the cage of existing coercive institutions that can be widened by popular struggle—as has happened effectively over many years.

We can extend the image to think of the cage of state institutions as a protection from the savage beasts roaming outside: the predatory, state-supported capitalist institutions dedicated in principle to private gain, power and domination, with community and people’s interest at most a footnote, revered in rhetoric but dismissed in practice as a matter of principle and even law.

Much of the most respected work in academic political science compares public attitudes and government policy. In “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America,” the Princeton scholar Martin Gilens reveals that the majority of the U.S. population is effectively disenfranchised.

About 70 percent of the population, at the lower end of the wealth/income scale, has no influence on policy, Gilens concludes. Moving up the scale, influence slowly increases. At the very top are those who pretty much determine policy, by means that aren’t obscure. The resulting system is not democracy but plutocracy.

Or perhaps, a little more kindly, it’s what legal scholar Conor Gearty calls “neo-democracy,” a partner to neoliberalism–a system in which liberty is enjoyed by the few, and security in its fullest sense is available only to the elite, but within a system of more general formal rights.

In contrast, as Rocker writes, a truly democratic system would achieve the character of “an alliance of free groups of men and women based on cooperative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community.”

No one took the American philosopher John Dewey to be an anarchist. But consider his ideas. He recognized that “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. Until those institutions are in the hands of the public, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business,” much as is seen today.

These ideas lead very naturally to a vision of society based on workers’ control of productive institutions, as envisioned by 19th century thinkers, notably Karl Marx but also—less familiar—John Stuart Mill.

Mill wrote, “The form of association, however, which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected to predominate, is the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers electable and removable by themselves.”

The Founding Fathers of the United States were well aware of the hazards of democracy. In the Constitutional Convention debates, the main framer, James Madison, warned of these hazards.

Naturally taking England as his model, Madison observed that “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place,” undermining the right to property.

The basic problem that Madison foresaw in “framing a system which we wish to last for ages” was to ensure that the actual rulers will be the wealthy minority so as “to secure the rights of property agst. the danger from an equality & universality of suffrage, vesting compleat power over property in hands without a share in it.”

Scholarship generally agrees with the Brown University scholar Gordon S. Wood’s assessment that “The Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period.”

Long before Madison, Artistotle, in his Politics, recognized the same problem with democracy.

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that this system was the best—or perhaps the least bad—form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair.

Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

In his last years, Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the United States’ Declaration of Independence, captured the essential nature of the conflict, which has far from ended. Jefferson had serious concerns about the quality and fate of the democratic experiment. He distinguished between “aristocrats and democrats.”

The aristocrats are “those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.”

The democrats, in contrast, “identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interest.”

Today the successors to Jefferson’s “aristocrats” might argue about who should play the guiding role: technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals, or bankers and corporate executives.

It is this political guardianship that the genuine libertarian tradition seeks to dismantle and reconstruct from below, while also changing industry, as Dewey put it, “from a feudalistic to a democratic social order” based on workers’ control, respecting the dignity of the producer as a genuine person, not a tool in the hands of others.

Like Karl Marx’s Old Mole—“our old friend, our old mole, who knows so well how to work underground, then suddenly to emerge”—the libertarian tradition is always burrowing close to the surface, always ready to peek through, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways, seeking to bring about what seems to me to be a reasonable approximation to the common good.

Out of the Cage: Lynne Stewart is Free!

Since the spring, activists across the country and around the world have been engaged in a campaign to free “the people’s lawyer,” Lynne Stewart Rallies were held, phone calls were made, and petitions were signed. However, after a series of failed legal efforts, the prospects for Stewart’s release looked slim. And that’s why it is so moving to see her jubilantly greet her family and friends upon returning home to New York City on New Year’s Day. In a complete surprise coming only 4 hours after Stewart submitted a personal appeal, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons approved her release.  We’ve won!

Click here to watch Democracy Now!’s interview with Lynne Stewart and her supporters upon her arrival on Wednesday.

If you’d like to send Lynne a welcome home message, e-mail her husband at ralph.poynter@yahoo.com

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Below is an article from Common Dreams with more information about Stewart’s life and career:

A federal judge ordered the “compassionate release” of former defense lawyer Lynne Stewart on Tuesday on the grounds that she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer with a life expectancy of less than 18 months.

Stewart, 74, who is known for representing underserved and unpopular defendants, has served four years out of a ten-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center Carswell (FMC Carswell) in Fort Worth, Texas, in connection with her defense of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Stewart allegedly helped pass messages between Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric convicted of planning terror attacks, and an organization designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Secretary of State.

Presiding Judge John Koeltl wrote that Stewart’s “terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction [of her sentence.]… It is further ordered that the defendant shall be released from the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons as soon as her medical condition permits, the release plan is implemented and travel arrangements can be made.”

Stewart left prison on Tuesday and headed for New York City to live with her family.

Jill Shellow, Stewart’s attorney, told CNN her client’s supporters were “overjoyed that she will spend her remaining days with her family.”

“From arrest to sentencing, Lynne Stewart’s case was used by the Department of Justice to send a chilling message to attorneys: think twice about who you represent!” said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, of which Stewart was a member. “Today’s small measure of justice does little to repair the damage wrought by the government’s unjust prosecution of an advocate whose service to society has been widely documented.”

Robert J. Boyle, one of Lynne Stewart’s attorneys added, “We are gratified and thankful that the government has agreed to Lynne’s compassionate release request. She has dedicated her life to fighting for justice for the underserved and unpopular. Lynne can now return home to her family and to the community that loves her.”

Year of the Scrooge: Dutchess Buys Land for Jail Expansion, Fails to Address Homeless Crisis

by Hank Gross, Mid-Hudson News

POUGHKEEPSIE – Fiscal 2014 is gearing up to be the Year of the Scrooge for Dutchess County. Tax cuts trumped social programs Monday night, as legislators upheld County Executive Marcus Molinaro’s austerity vetoes, approving his budget to forsake emergency homeless funding previously approved by lawmakers.

Molinaro smacked down a $10,000 addition to Hudson River Housing, which provides a shelter with several dozen beds. Current homeless estimates for the Poughkeepsie area exceed 1,000. The organization will instead receive $50,000 in the form of several one-shot Community Development Block Grants.

Lawmakers noted that regardless, funds won’t reach the needy before springtime. Hudson River Housing also indicated the shelter is at capacity and cannot provide more beds with such money.

There is one place the county is building its housing capacity – the county jail. Legislators overwhelmingly approved $1.3 million to purchase 4.6 acres of land across from the Walkway Over the Hudson. The former factory property is being put aside for future jail expansion.

“This is a processed driven outcome,” Molinaro said.   “Identify what we need with our current population, with projected future population and how best to confront it.”

The purchase of the land gives a canvas to start from, the county executive said.  He added that he remains cautiously optimistic for state approval of temporary prison housing pods. Over $8 million per year is spent boarding inmates outside Dutchess.

“Bringing inmates back will produce some cost savings, but it’s also about the logistics,” Molinaro said.