Thursday, November 23, 2006

Howling Like a Wild Wolf

Overcoming Fear and Undermining the Invader
by Rod Coronado



It's hard to judge the radical environmental movement by the last 25 years, but if I had to, I'd say that I'm very disappointed. Twenty years ago, when I discovered the Earth First! movement, I thought that the generation of Earth warriors I shared this country with had a fighting chance. People from all walks of life in the center of the First World were coming together and strengthening an already strong love and affinity for the natural world, shaking off their consumerist upbringing and realizing their wild dreams with creative direct action that marked an allegiance with the Earth instead of the society responsible for her destruction. Monkeywrenching was the ultimate demonstration of our love for Mother Earth, and none among us questioned its historical or practical necessity, let alone its legitimacy. We were warriors, and our connection as a tribe meant the shared commitment to abandon the system that constantly betrayed the people and places we loved.

Monkeywrenching was not just another tool in the box, it was what separated EF! from the toothless, First World environmental movement. A fellow Arizonan, Dave Foreman, was our firebrand spokesperson, bringing listeners to tears with his stories of seeing the dying green fire in a wolf's eyes, telling us how the chainsaws also tore his flesh when they tore through an ancient redwood, before hoisting the sacramental monkeywrench to the sky and howling like a wild wolf himself. What else were we supposed to do once that fire was lit inside our hearts, but defend the wildness we loved by any and all means?

Back in the early days of EF!, Dave and the gang erected a monument in New Mexico to Victorio, a Mimbres Apache who drove out or killed invading miners in the late 1800s. After years of watching his people die on the dreaded reservations, Victorio had enough of being pushed around by the system. He knew there was no other way to live than with the Earth, not against her like the Invaders were forcing his people to do. So rather than die a slow death on the malaria - infested reservation, Victorio and a small band broke free to live the only way they knew how.

By identifying with the Apache wars of the American Southwest, EF! held up as an example a people whose worldview centered, like most indigenous peoples, on living in harmony with their environment and who, when attacked, fought ferociously to defend their way of life. That is what the Earth needed from the US environmental movement, then and now. That's what I thought was beginning 20 years ago when I first heard Dave Foreman speak, and I knew there was no greater responsibility than the time-honored tradition of fighting against one's Invaders and oppressors.

Then in 1990, in Arizona, FBI agents kicked in Dave Foreman's door, while simultaneously ambushing a band of monkeywrenchers in action toppling powerlines. It was the first time that EF! experienced the legal consequences of its low-intensity campaign of what Foreman called "ecotage" - acts of economic sabotage against the forces destroying the Earth. Foreman - the editor/publisher of Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching - received a suspended sentence and probation. The FBI's case against Foreman and EF! effectively ended Foreman's advocacy of ecotage. Gone were the days of Foreman pedaling Ecodefense after his lectures and signing copies for wild, awakened "ecoteur" recruits (he refused to sign my copy in 2001). Most importantly to our growing struggle, the FBI had silenced our most outspoken representative while also demonstrating that "monkeywrencher" was just another name for "terrorist." But the ecological insurrection did not end as the Invader had hoped - like the living organism it represents, seeds took to the Earth and grew into something very familiar.

Like Victorio and his struggle against the Western worldview invasion, the actions of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) are enough of a threat to have been deemed by the FBI as the most active domestic terrorism groups in the US. Burning SUVs would be the same as attacking the horse - drawn wagons and supply lines of the pioneer Invader; torching luxury trophy homes, the same as burning down their forts. Today, the insurrection comes from within the fort's walls, and those still fighting have been forced to realize that when they abandon the privileges of the Invader, they join the ranks of all who have challenged him before. Bloodthirsty savage, ecoterrorist - it's all the same.

The Invader continues to instill fear with outrageous prison sentences. The American Indian Movement suffered Leonard Peltier as an example, just as we have with Jeffrey "Free" Luers. What both have shown is that what fear does not kill, it makes stronger-and those conscious enough to defend the Earth do so knowing that there is no turning back on this ancestral path to freedom, no matter how dear the personal price.

That's what disappoints me today - not the constant assault or the scale of destruction against our life support system, but the lack of action to stop it. When I used to go to Game and Fish Department public hearings 20 years ago, EF!ers packed the house. If the meetings accomplished nothing else, they let us tell the bastards killing the last of the wild nations that they'd have to go through us first. It might have meant little to them, but to EF! it was another way to remind them, and ourselves, that our love and allegiance was to our Mother. Nowadays, I'm grateful to have more than myself representing our animal relations at the system's meetings. Wherever the desperately needed Earth warriors from this suicidal society have gone, they have thrown away a sacred responsibility in the hour of our planet's greatest need, and I think I know why.

The thing that prevents the multitudes of conscious and aware individuals in our culture from taking direct action to stop, or at the very least interfere with, what they know to be wrong, is fear. Fear makes us withdraw, and instead of fulfilling our social, ecological and political responsibilities, we feel depressed or guilty for remaining a part of the problem. Without an ability to deal with fear, one may feel great empathy, but not enough to risk one's own place of comfort and privilege. Some reinforce their fear by discrediting those who do try to make a difference. Fear is common in the broad, political left and its paralyzing effect on direct action in the First World is what separates our resistance to ecological destruction from that of generations past, and from those in what the Invader calls the "Third World."

We here in the First World feel fear when we think of Free's 22-year prison sentence or of a violent death. Yet for so many across the world, oppression, tragedy and violence have become all they know. How do we defeat the fear and intimidation that robs us of our wild nature, spirit and willingness to fight back? We confront it. We know how bad things are, and I'm not going to waste time rattling off the numbers and statistics. We know the unthinkable evil and cruelty that is being committed in places like Huntingdon Life Sciences and Guantanamo Bay in our own name and by our own citizens, yet we do so little to stop it-little that is truly effective.

Instead of accepting responsibility for our rogue government, the American left-including most environmentalists - has become less politically active, barely challenging the corruption that we know exists. We turn on our computers and become more aware of the suffering, oppression, war and destruction committed by US corporate armies. But rather than take to the streets, liberals worship messengers like Amy Goodman and Michael Moore.

When the Internet first became a primary form of communication for our resistance, many spoke of the information that would be shared - believing, as the American left still does, that if people are made aware of injustice, somehow it will stop. But the US is still torturing prisoners; the last wild buffalo are still being slaughtered; hundreds of thousands of young harp seals are still dying every Spring; the last wild wolves and indigenous people are under continued assault. Instead of the citizen action that one would expect from non-sympathizers and non-collaborators, we hide in our remaining privilege - hiking, river rafting, drinking, cashing our career environmentalist checks, paying the bills, growing ever more cynical, angry or depressed, but most of all ignoring the deep feeling in our hearts that still allows us to hear the Earth's cries.

Awareness without action is worthless. Most people who rise up to prevent the destruction of their lives and homes, like Victorio, didn't learn such responsibilities late in life, but were taught by families living in harmony with the life around them - something there's ever less of in our consumer-based society. That is what we must return to if any movement hoping to preserve life on this planet is to survive.

In the EF! campaign to defend Mt. Graham here in southern Arizona, an Apache elder told me that we must not forget why Mt. Graham was sacred, continue to practice that belief with prayer and teach our children to honor the mountain in the way our ancestors had. If we did that, he said, protecting Mt. Graham and all of Mother Earth would come naturally. Defending your home should be second nature, and helping others who are doing the same is still what the Earth and our movement needs most. What's needed is not just more monkeywrenching, but more of the human-to-human and animal-to-human living that keeps the Earth's spirit, and our own, alive.

In my own awakening from the fear that immobilized me while living underground as an FBI fugitive, the Earth Mother spoke to me, saying, "We are here, we have been here and always will be here, but there is nothing we can do to help you until you believe in us more than what you fear." Once freed from fear - and despite five federal grand juries investigating our ALF cell at the time - we were able to rise from hiding, organize and destroy the US government's Predator Research Facility in Utah.

We must always remember where our power comes from, and believe in it more than in the fear our enemies use. When we believe in the power of the Earth more than in our fear of prisons or death, we attain the level of warriorhood we need to survive the future. When we follow our hearts and instincts, and act to prevent the Earth's destruction and protect the innocent, we tell the Invader that the resistance is alive and strong. We say that the sisterhood and brotherhood with all life that has already survived so many generations of war will not be broken on our watch.

The price of such responsibility may result in us being hunted down like Victorio, the bison of Montana or the wolves of New Mexico and Arizona today. But if we allow fear to prevent us from doing what we know is fair and just, we disrespect our still-living and fighting wild sisters and brothers and those who are in prison, paying a higher price for freedom than most of us ever have. That is what hurts the most. Despite the number of people among us who are fully aware and able to describe the ecological turning point we have either already passed or are fast approaching - global warming, habitat destruction, species extinction, human wars and corporate pollution - so few are standing up to fight it.

Still, I'm a fool, because my strong belief in the power of the Earth gives me hope. And if grown-ups fail to answer the call now, we'd better start raising more of our own children and building the kind of community support structures that a real resistance needs to survive. And I'm not just talking about knowing how to build a fire; we must support, house, teach and feed the refugees that our enemies are always creating. The Earth will support us, that is not a question. But the society dependent on her exploitation will one day collapse, and when it does, the only ones left standing will be those who never were dependent on it in the first place. All others will once again be subject to the Invader for their daily rations.

I'm still under federal indictment for stopping a mountain lion hunt here in Arizona, and I'm facing another indictment for giving a lecture about monkeywrenching. But on November 1, I'll still be helping escort sandhill cranes safely past the hunters' guns, not far from where Victorio rode himself. And though we may only save a few birds, our hearts will remain free, and those killing our winged relations will know it. So to those still ready to ride and break free from the reservations of our minds and hearts, to build the kind of sustainable resistance our Earth needs, the tribe still awaits you. The family of all life on Earth awaits you, around the sacred fire with hero warriors of generations before. That's where you can still find me, hoisting a monkeywrench to the sky and howling like a wild wolf.

Rod Coronado is an organizer with Chuk'shon EF!, and he is looking for people to join him in the field this Fall and Winter in defense of the wild animal nations.

SOURCE: Earth First! Journal

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