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Environmental Activism

.. this planet. We reject even the notion of benevolent stewardship as that implies dominance. Instead we believe, as did Aldo Leopold, that we should be plain citizens of the land community”. This meant no permanent human habitation (with minor exceptions); no use of mechanized equipment or vehicles; no roads; no logging, mining, water diversion, industrial activity, agriculture, or grazing; no use of artificial chemical substances; no suppression of wildfires; no overflights by aircraft; no priority given to the safety and convenience of human visitors over the functioning of the ecosystem. Even more visionary than these land community guidelines was the demand for the restoration of dams, roads, power lines, and the other intrusions of industrial society. 5.

The campaign of the Sea Shepherds brought international attention to the problem of unregulated whaling. Norwegian authorities began an investigation of a bank that had part ownership in the pirate operation, a Japanese fishing company became the object of an inquiry, and the South African government began a crackdown on pirate whalers operating out of its country. Over the years the Sea Shepherds made many campaigns, from stopping seal hunts along the Labrador coast to interfering with B.C.’s wolf eradication plans to chasing off Japanese fishing fleets using highly destructive drift nets in the North Pacific. The action of most note is the raiding of a Reykjavik whale processing plant and the harbor and subsequent sinking of whaling ships operating under the guise of “research”. The Sea Shepherd activities not only attracted media; its militant activities also succeeded in influencing the environmental movement as a whole.

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The Sea Shepherd movement, after the events of Reykjavik, proved they could be successful in the war on commercial whaling. The “ecological awakening” felt by the Icelandic people as an direct result of the raid was proof that radical environmentalism was affecting people in ways the leaders of the mainstream environmental movement never dreamed of. The ability of the Shepherds to win the support of a number of people, including celebrities, despite of or perhaps because of its militancy, who might otherwise have been reluctant to endorse ecotage. 6. Though both groups share common feelings about environmentalism, their actions are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Deep Ecology is basically theologic in its approach, whereas Earth First! is an activist group. An analogy to the Irish Republican Army may be made that Deep Ecology represents the Sein Fein faction while Earth First! represent the armed radical faction of an army of activist environmentalists. Deep Ecology is based on a respect or a reverence for the life community which consists of innumerable individuals interacting in a variety of ways. It is ecological, recognizing that life depends on life, that some suffering and pain is inherent in nature, that death is not evil. It is naturalistic, believing that nature knows best, going beyond good and evil to simply letting being be. Deep Ecology has tried to keep to the perception that makes the environmental crisis a subject of discourse: the deep feeling people have that nature is under siege by the artificial, destructive cultures of modern humanity.

The grief and outrage many people feel at the extirpation of nature is directly addressed by Deep Ecology’s message that we must unlearn anthropocentrism and develop a less imperial culture that allows for the continued existence of the natural world. While humanist environmentalism remains in its academic setting, Deep Ecology has inspired people to begin education t! he culture of extinction about the necessity of environmental humility. Some have likened the theory and practice of this activism to the civil rights movement of the 60s, a new civil rights movement seeking moral recognition for that vast part of the biosphere-the nonhuman-that the Enlightenment spurned. Earth First! represents the “rage” and reaction that radical environmentalists feel toward the destruction of the natural world. They are not only acting out their rage, on the contrary, the theory and practice of ecotage are as well thought out as the politics of reform. Forman’s notion of monkeywrenching, based on the belief that if profit brings the resource industry into the wilderness, loss of profit due to continuing equipment damage, production delays, and increased security will drive it out. “The cost of repairs, production delays, and increased security will drive it out.” It may be too much for the bureaucrats and exploiters to accept if there is a widely-dispersed, unorganized, strategic movement of resistance across the land. Such a movement has developed, though not on the scale radical environmentalists would wish. Ecotage probably costs the resource industry and government agencies between $20 and $25 million annually. One can only speculate as to the ef! fect that has had on decisions made in corporate boardrooms.

Most Earth First!ers do not believe ecotage is a substitute for major social changes; rather, it is a stopgap measure – “damage control” – to protect as much of the natural world as possible until such change is brought about, one way or another. 7. It tells us that society values property and the higher standard of living through technology over the natural world and any rights the natural world may be entitled to even though the majority of society on a personal level is sympathetic to the cause of radical environmentalists in theory. The American people are not accustomed to thinking of such nonhuman entities as mountain lions, forests, and rivers as exploited groups whose 9th amendments rights can be violated. From the perspective of the radical environmentalists movement, this state of affairs is exactly the problem.

In the ante-bellum South, people were not accustomed the thinking of slaves as human beings who had any claim to the protection of the law. We now find this position both repugnant and ridiculous. In the future, so goes the biocentric argument, we will feel the same toward contemporary society’s refusal to extend legal and ethical standing to the “deer people” and the “tree people”. Radical environmentalism is best understood as an attempt to enlarge the circle of legal and ethical standing (9th amendment rights) to include other species and even entire ecosystems. Using this theory as a 9th amendment weapon to extend the rights to the natural world can only, in my opinion, happen when society as whole, i.e.

in large numbers, gets behind the biocentric movement to the magnitude it got behind the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 60’s and 70’s.8. Much of the breakdown of civilization is that we seem to rely on a totalization of values, values represented as universal, applicable to everyone, at all times. Through totalized values, organized societies have at their command a medium through which to dictate the kind of human behavior that enhances the power of those in control. Whether those values result in people plowing a field, working in a factory, or dropping an atomic bomb on helpless civilians, the discourse of civilization can find a justification in God’s commandments, progress, national security, or humanism. Social power shapes the most intimate and quotidian acts of civilization’s citizens.’ Industrial man and the industrial society may be the most deleterious and unsustainable economic system the world has ever seen, since it constantly eats into the ecological systems on which it depends. We are beginning to realize just how costly a system it is as the health and cleanup bills from years of environmental abuse come due.

Not surprisingly, those who benefited most from the extravagant rise of the industrial economy have done their best to pass the burden on to others: the poor, the unwary, or the next generation. Industrialism is perhaps the greatest pyramid scheme in history. The role that industrial man must take for the ultimate survival of the natural world is that he must take the action to slow and reverse human population growth . There are ecological limits to how many people can live in dignity on this planet; to quibble over whether that line has yet been crossed is to invite a game of ecological brinkmanship that there is no need to play. And if human population has not exceeded carrying capacity, the arguments of the humanist critics leave out the whole question of the effect present population levels have on the nonhuman world.


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