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Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement Paperback – February 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 483 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press; 1 edition (February 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816521859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816521852
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,653,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When a few scruffy "redneck hippies" first gathered in 1980 in the isolated Pinacate of Mexico to discuss environmental issues, none had any idea that they would launch a movement that would involve thousands of activists and a good number of FBI agents. But by the time they emerged from that wild country, Dave Foreman and company had evolved into Earth First!, a group that vowed to protect wild places by whatever means necessary. Susan Zakin traces the movement over 10 years to its splintering in the early 1990s after Foreman and three other activists were arrested for conspiracy to destroy an Arizona nuclear-power plant. Zakin's vivid prose mirrors the movement's excitement, occasional terror, and just as occasional triumph--notably author Edward Abbey's notorious "cracking" of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1981 (a giant roll of black polyurethane provided the illusion that the dam had sprung a leak), which first brought Earth First! national attention. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the late '70s through the '80s, the radical environmental group Earth First! achieved notoriety by its flamboyant activism while provoking widespread debate on environmental issues. In this lengthy, rambling account, reporter Zakin profiles the group and its major figures: Dave Foreman, Bart Koehler, Tim Mahoney, Mike Roselle, Howie Wolke, Louisa Willcos and Judi Bari. Zakin also describes other leading environmentalist figures from John Muir to David Brower. Earth First! members were disappointed with the national organizations and dismayed by Reagan policies. Devotees of Edward Abbey's The Monkeywrench Gang , they followed the principle of "act now, think later." Zakin describes the group's activities in the West as it confronted loggers, miners and road-builders. She chronicles the rise of anti-environmentalist backlash and violence in northern California, FBI surveillance of Foreman and his companions and their subsequent arrest in 1989 for conspiracy to destroy government property. Foreman, who wrote Confessions of an Eco-Warrior in 1991, was released after agreeing to a plea-bargaining deal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

When a literary agent called me "the female environmental Hunter S. Thompson." I was afraid to tell anyone in case they would wonder if I was in the habit of ingesting pituitary gland extract or wrecking rental cars. (Hey, it was just a dent! That one time...)

With that disclaimer, my first book, Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First and the Environmental Movement, shows the influence of Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and Edward Abbey. I grew up in the heyday of the New Journalism and I shared Abbey's romantic ideas about freedom, along with his outrage over the destruction of the American landscape. Abbey told me in an interview that examining the natural world leads us to the important questions, and I share that belief even now.

But I had no ambition to be a "nature" writer. I wanted to be a novelist.

I had taken the old-fashioned route of becoming a journalist to "learn how to write." In 1984, I moved out west. I got my first big magazine assignment, which landed me in jail. Fortunately, the article led to the publication of Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement by Viking.

I did a lot of magazine journalism after this book came out, but by 2001, I was pretty burned out. The arguments over wilderness in the American West hadn't changed since Bernard DeVoto wrote his column for Harper's in the 1940s. (The arguments were replayed by John Ford in the 1961 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, which is lovely and still worth watching.)

In 2001, I applied for a fellowship that would send me to the island of Madagascar, which is to evolution what Florence is to art. To my surprise, I got it.

What I found surprised me. Madagascar was imbued with paradox. The vast basin and range felt strange yet familiar to American eyes. The island contained eighty percent of the world's chameleon species, and an array of odd-shaped plants that you thought only existed in your dreams. The music was played on stringed instruments from Shangri La. Street kids and gem smugglers hustle down the streets of the capital.

Life felt seamless. And, using traditional methods of study (a French boyfriend) my language skills took a quantum leap.

In other ways, Madagascar was not so different. On the remote Mangoky River, streamers of smoke accompanied us like wraiths. The forest was burning. We saw smoke nearly every day, sometimes more than once. Slash and burn farming was Madagascar's version of the suburban sprawl infecting Tucson, where I had lived since 1991.

If the ecologist Raymond Dasmann was right and World War III was industrial man's war on nature, la guerre was definitely fini. Not for everyone: plenty of people cared about nature for its own sake, whether it was beautiful or not. (People who lived in planned eco-communities indistinguishable from Disneyland. People who got excited about "trading pollution credits.")

But for me, it had always been about something else.

I edited an anthology called Naked: Writers Uncover the Way We Live on Earth. I wanted to broaden the definition of "environmental" writing to include fiction, and journalism, and edgy writing that had character and plot, and didn't fall within the bounds of political correctness. I wanted a literature of ruination.

I wrote an essay for a book of photographs of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Practiced what I had been preaching.

I began working on a novel about a young man named Victor Kamara. He's swept up in a coup, and at the age of twenty-six, he becomes the de facto leader of a West African nation. When we meet him, it is fifteen years later and he's living in a Virginia suburb. When U.S. authorities begin deportation proceedings, and his supporters in Grand Mare come calling, the question "Who is Victor Kamara" suddenly becomes more urgent.....a British journalist tells the story, and where the two men's lives become intertwined, they love and betray each other....

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you want to know just how far the conservation movement has come in the US in the last 30 years, read this book. Susan Zakin tells it like it is, not bowing to the PC concerns of her enemies. Detailing the horrid compromising ways of large environmental organizations and government that pushed cutting-edge activists to lead by example in "no compromise in defense of mother earth." Some new age Earth First!ers hate this book. That's a good reason to read it. Great high-powered & entertaining writing style. Well researched. This book will teach, get you pissed off, and push you to become more radical. One of the top conservation books of the last decade.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
Zakin is the Tom Wolfe of the environmental movement, which, contrary to popular opinion, is NOT boring. Zakin shows that the history of the conservation is analogous to America's changing image of itself, a combination of Alexis deTocqueville and The Right Stuff with hiking boots. Funny, vivid, up-close-and-personal portraits of the New West hipsters and the Inside-the-Beltway politicos who use very different methods to do the same thing: fight a beautiful, losing battle to keep fragments of the natural landscape in functioning order. Coyotes gives neophyte and veteran alike a fun ride through the environmental movement's greatest hits, with a terrific biographical section on Edward Abbey, telescoped coverage of everyone from Aldo Leopold to Dave Brower, plus a compelling narrative thread based on the life of the surprisingly intellectual neo-redneck Dave Foreman, a quintessential American. Required reading -- not just for Birkenstock-wearers!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Casper Rosewater on February 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
One half of the content of this book is a worthwile, concise history of the western U.S. wilderness preservation movement covering the last half of the 20th century. It is required reading for anyone with an interest -- or a motive ;>) As for the rest of the content, concerning Zakin's treatment of Foreman and as to her patronizing of Foreman (concerns raised here by previous critics), I don't know. I guess you had to have been there. But Foreman and EarthFirst! are mentioned only briefly before page 186 (of 443) and only so as to frame the history that portends Foreman's founding of EarthFirst! So, I would have to say that this history is relatively unbiased especailly given it's subject. After three years of trying to get the big picture of the entire history of contemporary wilderness advocacy, I have finally found it here. Really worthwile and entertaining.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Pickering on December 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is unfortunate that this is one of the very few sources for events it covers because a good amount of the individuals that this book talks about strongly disagree with the liberties the author takes. There were a number of articles in the Earth First! Journal detailing these issues, not the least of which was a lengthy article written from prison by Mark Davis - a key figure in Coyotes and Town Dogs and a person who the author interviewed as a source for the text. In fact, the author clearly favors Dave Foreman in the text. Foreman was one of the founders of Earth First! who severely fell out of favor with the majority of Earth First!ers right around the time this book went to print and has had nothing to do with Earth First! since. The book is too heavy on charector personality (representing the author's opinions in this case as facts) and too light on factual history, if you ask me.
however, if you are reading for entertainment and not especially interested in truths, this could be read as a fiction novel and enjoyed. it is the only book-source for some of the material it covers and could be used as a starting point for researchers who are looking do understand what did go down with the first generation of Earth First! but if you do read this, strongly question the ways the author characterizes the real people who struggled to protect the Earth in the 1980s.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. A. K. on May 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am mentioned in this book as Dave's friend "Mike". I just wish the author had interviewed me, then she would have gotten the story right about Dave's leaving the Marines. When Dave decided the Marines weren't for him, he came back to Albuquerque and called me first. The story in the book and the story of what really happened are different. Similar but different. It makes me wonder about the authenticity of the rest of the book
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent journalistic account of the rise of Earth First!, far better than the other attempts at such (e.g. Rik Scarce's _Eco Warriors_). The historical context in which Earth First! was founded, as well as the influences on the group (especially Edward Abbey) are discussed in detail. Susan Zakin also gives the most complete account of the FBI's infiltration of and disruption of Earth First! starting in 1986, which culminated in the arrests of five activists, including EF! founder Dave Foreman, for involvement in a monkeywrenching caper that was set up by an FBI agent provocateur. The influx into the group of newer elements from the West Coast far-left starting in 1987, who soon began heavy criticism of the original Earth First! founders whose views were apparently not politically correct enough, is also covered in detail. Both of these elements (the FBI disruption and the West Coast ultra-left) led to infighting and a split late in 1990, with the original Earth First!ers of the 80's leaving the group and starting new publications and wilderness advocacy groups which have become the cutting edge of the ecology movement today. Earth First! itself survived the split but is now composed mainly of people whose background was in the urban anarchist, homeless and immigrant advocacy, neopagan, and feminist movements rather than in the grassroots conservation movement; thus, it is today a different group both in ideology and tactics than the original Earth First! of the 80's. Zakin does a good job of illustrating this facet of Earth First!'s history.
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