Nonviolence and Direct Action Essay

Submitted By laurenschulte
Words: 1850
Pages: 8

Lauren Schulte
English 2010
12/3/14
Professor Moloney
EarthFirst!

The radical environmental group EarthFirst is known for their use of violence and destruction in order to protect the environment. EarthFirst was established because of the rising concern of confrontation between environmental movement groups and logging/ deforestation companies, such as the Pacific Lumber Co. Due to its most influential founder, Dave Foreman, EarthFirst was committed to the common belief of the need for direct action and is based on the view of biocentrism; the belief that the rights and needs of humans are not more important than those of other living things. Foreman effectuated the use of ecodefense with emphasis on “no compromise in defense of mother earth” (Wall, 57) that included violent acts of “arson, tree spiking, and disabling heavy road equipment” (Lee, 39). Most ecodefense tactics were able to gain the attention of the media and momentarily halt tree-loggers, however, these risky and dangerous actions consequently took the lives of the many activists protesting. David Chain died on September 17th, 1998 and was one of the many examples of a young, passionate activist influenced by ecodefense tactics and encouraged to exercise such actions. David was with a group of EarthFirst activists while trespassing and attempting to interrupt loggers in the forests of Humboldt County, California. Because the group was trespassing and used tactics to aggravate the loggers who were present, David was a victim of the rage one of the loggers uncontrollably responded with. The use of illegal trespassing and direct action was the reason David Chain was killed while trying to protect the environment “at all costs”. Another flaw within EarthFirst was the lack of any form of hierarchy, making it difficult for nonviolent movement groups to crack down on the increasing number of violent tree spiking or “monkey wrenching”. The violent actions of EarthFirst! are said to be “just violence”, but the end does not always justify the means. Therefore, it is necessary to use nonviolent methods to insure protection of the Pacific N.W forests and overcome any unjust actions.
In the efforts to protect the environment at all costs, using violent direct action has helped accomplish the goals of EarthFirst. Ecodefense tactics attract the attention of public media and in turn, benefit the less extreme environmental groups who acquire similar goals; for example the Sierra Club. As a result, the demands of groups that are perceived by the public as moderate appear more reasonable and encourage policy changes. This conception is known as the radical flank process and is seen as “symbolic [by] providing competitive pressure for media attention and legitimizing and radicalizing existing demands of moderate environmental groups” (Wall, 155). Extreme direct actions can be justified by the belief that sacrificing more in the present will lead to fewer sacrifices in the future. Even though tree spiking can be seen as illegal, it is effective in that “breaking the law for a higher ethical idea” (Wall, 4) is necessary in the fight to protect the environment.
On the other hand, nonviolence not only attracts positive attention of the media through boycotts, strikes, marches and sit-ins, it also attracts the attention and support of surrounding governments/ support groups. Instead of attaining negative attention and forcing a change while creating enemies, nonviolent methods can change the minds and hearts of oppressors while creating a lasting relationship. In 1985, Foreman published the book Ecodefense: A Field Guide To Monkeywrenching that had descriptive steps and instructions on “decommissioning heavy equipment, tree spiking, destroying roads and avoiding arrest” (Wall, 85) that encouraged EarthFirst-ers to use during violent protests. Of course, this book drew negative attention from many “government officials and law enforcement agencies” (Wall, 86). In order to improve…