Dear potential readers,
the last few days the kids and me, are preparing a small magazine about ecology. For this reason, I suggested we watch a documentary talking about the first environmental movement in USA, the Earth Liberation Front. The movie is called “If a tree falls: a story of the earth liberation front”, directed by Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman. For this reason, and since this week is dedicated to environmental issues, I would like to talk a little bit more about the movement of Earth Liberation Front, since there are few contradictions in its actions that made me think about it twice.
Most of us, including myself, are having USA in our minds connected with mass pop culture, with the industrialization and the commercialization of almost everything, with capitalism, with the deification of ownership and profit and at last with geostrategic power plans under the surveillance of NATO and its armament supernumerary. Though, we forget that USA has been the land of the first organized movements in the latest history, concerning animals, women, workers, race, sexuality, gender identity and the environment and many of the rights that we enjoy nowadays are derived directly from those courageous movements.
The Earth Liberation Front is one of them and it is a radical environmental movement that developed from the ideological factionalization of the British “Earth First!” movement of the 1990s. The first ELF was founded in Brighton in the United Kingdom in 1992 and spread to the rest of Europe and USA by 1994. Its ideological underpinnings are based in deep ecology, anti-authoritarian anarchism highlighting a critique of capitalism, a commitment to non-violence, a collective defense of the Earth, and a warranted feeling of persecution by State forces. “Deep Ecology” teaches that all living entities, human and non-human, have equal worth and value and an inherent right to live and prosper. Its’ roots to anarchy can be found in the way they chose to organize themselves. There was no formal leadership, hierarchy, membership or official spokesperson and it entirely decentralized. Instead it was consisting of individuals who worked in affinity groups, known as cells, and were usually self-funded.
ELF was for the ones who participated, an eco-defence group dedicated to taking the profit motive out of environmental destruction by causing economic sabotage and guerilla warfare to businesses which are exploiting and degrading the environment. Such businesses were the ones who are involved in logging, genetic engineering, GMO crops, deforestation, sport utility vehicles, urban sprawl, energy production and distribution. The ELF was classified as the top "domestic terror" threat in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March 2001 and its members were categorized as "eco-terrorists".
Their first attack occurred in October 14, in Oregon, during the Columbus Day, when the United States citizens are reminded of their colonial roots. In one night, individuals carried out three simultaneous attacks targeting a Chevron Station, a public relations office and a McDonald’s restaurant. All three targets had their locks glued and their property painted with political messages including a three letter calling card, E.L.F. From that time on many other sabotages followed such as the one in Oregon, where the Oregon Ranger Station was burned down and the Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado, that cost 12$ million. Their eco-sabotages continued from 1996 to 2009 with the total of 300 attacks. Though, the target has always been the property and this is the reason why not even a single human was injured or died throughout their operations.
It is easy to see a contradiction in the theory and practice of this movement, but it is also easy to see contradictions in the way businesses act under the protection of US governments. Is it possible to support non violence, when you burn down numerous properties of businesses? And on the other hand, is it possible for an industry to make profit out of the exploitation of our environment and animals, without taking the right precautions in order to restore the damages? Why is it terrorism to burn down an industry that harms our environment and degrades our living standard, while it is not a terrorist action when the industry is causing environmental downgrading? But this article is not an objective angle over the situation, since there is no objective angle in journalism in general, even if many people tend to believe so. Every writer is a subject and according to his or her ideological beliefs offers a quite subjective angle over specific topics and situations.
Violence-both in order to defend oneself or to attack- has been a very important weapon in peoples’ hands. It is not only used in order to bring injustice, through dictatorships and wars, but it is also used in order for the people to fight injustice or even in order to restore justice through collective and violent protests and actions against their oppressors. We should have always in mind that if it wasn’t for the storming of Bastille the French Revolution wouldn’t have set off, or if it wasn’t for the deliberation revolutions, our countries wouldn’t have their independence nowadays, or if it wasn’t for the persistent anti-bias of Gezi Park protests, the dream of a non authoritarian Turkey wouldn’t still be alive and if it wasn’t for the violent protests of the workers in Chicago in 1886, today workers wouldn’t have gained the right to strike.
In almost every country of the world, the state power--the government--is the greatest source of organized violence. States have armies, whose main purpose is to use violence against other state armies. States also have police forces, whose purpose is to use violence to control the domestic population, under the justification of protecting our National Security. Moreover, there is that bias of the political choices, that lead people today to unemployment, that legalize social exclusion and injustice, that lead people to forced migration while on the same time there are strict migrating legislations, and that political choices that create a large gap between the rich and the poor ones.
The state is producing a violence that is pointing us and we are experiencing its results in our everyday lives. Instead of accepting our position as victims we have the right to defend ourselves and fight back- sometimes by using peaceful ways and sometimes when our patience is over even with violence. We are not the terrorists, we are just the products of a world based on terror.
The question stays- are they heroes or terrorists?
You are the ones who hold the answer.
sources: "The Earth Liberation Front: A Social Movement Analysis" by MICHAEL LOADENTHAL