22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Dave Foreman, lifelong preservationist, and founder of the Environmental organization called "EarthFirst!" provides an insightful explanation into the state of our nation and our world today from the preservationist viewpoint. Foreman refers often to historical information, biological research, ecological studies, demographic trends, science, population growth, political and economic facts, statistics, and motivations to explain the "why," "who" and "how" of our environmental condition today. "Common man" cattle-ranchers, behemoth corporations, bureaucratic agencies, and working and middle class--us, I, we humans--are relevant in this very mature and logical book. This is not a political or economically ideological book. The goal is to preserve what's left of our planet, pure and simple. "EarthFirst!" is inclusive for people from all economic, sociological, political, and religious backgrounds. In other words, it's not just for the so-called Greeners or Naturalists.
The bibliography noted in this text can lead anyone to further learn about the multitude of thinking, politics, history, and scientifically-based fact, which is the foundation of the preservationist movement. Foreman's description of the many species of plant and animal life makes the reader want to jump right into the natural world. Most of it is gone, however. Extinct. And many more species of animal and plant life are dwindling everyday. In the past I've read and viewed descriptions of "EarthFirst!" from those not familiar with environmentalism or biocentrism. Its coverage of "EarthFirst!" was extremely misleading in my opinion. This book is not a ranting and raving diatribe in any way. It is completely the opposite. This is an honest look at what we humans have been doing for centuries, and the all-encompassing ramifications and lower quality of life that will result from it for all of us. This book unemotionally describes and explains how our nation and world has been transformed, and it is saddening and frustrating. But that does not mean that it is too late for the expansion of positive preservationist thinking, eco-education, and action. In fact, it is more important today than ever at this stage. I've never been involved in environmental movements or have been much of an Outdoor person. I go camping occasionally, have done some hiking, and have always respected and admired natural beauty. Yet, I was mostly oblivious to much of the details of the environmental issues that I read about in the newspapers, saw on television news, and watched on documentaries regarding the environmental topics of today. It is people like me that a book like this can reach, and change. I am one of the masses. And this book can, I believe have a profound impact on the masses, in the way we think and how we act. Every North American should read this book. In my opinion it should be required reading in our schools as a starting point on how we view our world.
12 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"Confessions of an Eco-Warrior" goes a long way towards describing the worldview of the radical environmentalist movement in the United States. Written by Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman, the book is a sweeping indictment of industrial society and the damage this system is doing to our national parks, our water supply, and our wildlife. Foreman, who looks a lot like Grizzly Adams, is one American who is not going to take this destruction lying down. He is angry that damage to the environment continues without any let up, and he aims to reverse that damage by spreading the green gospel with this book.
Foreman begins with a detailed chronology of how he turned into a green radical. Foreman was a member of the Wilderness Society, one of the "Big Ten" environmental groups (others include the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society) working through political channels for wilderness protection. Foreman became disgruntled with these groups when he realized that legal means could not get the job done. A few other people shared Foreman's views, so they formed Earth First!, a group dedicated to using any means necessary to secure a bright future for the environment.
A central tenet of Earth First!'s manifesto is the philosophy of Deep Ecology. This philosophical outlook boils down to biocentrism, or a belief that the universe is not man-centered, but that mankind exists as part of a vast, interlocking chain of actions within the environment. Earth First! rejects dogmas such as communism, socialism, capitalism, or any other anthropocentric belief system, claiming that such systems are humanistic with little concern for the environment. Earth First! supports massive reductions in the human population, the rejection of rational systems of thought as the only credible way of thinking, and disdain for the unquestioning belief in progress and technology that most of us take for granted. As can be expected, many of Foreman's beliefs are not popular with significant majorities of the population. His attitudes about strict birth control methods across the globe, according to Foreman, continually bring outraged letters from leftists who cannot bear the thought of less people. But for Foreman, it is all a part of a better, greener planet. If humanity continues to grow as it has for the past century or so, the earth stands no chance of surviving into the future.
A significant part of the book deals with monkeywrenching, an action-oriented form of ecological terrorism designed to slow the growth of technology and progress in America's wilderness areas. Monkeywrenching became famous in environmental circles when Edward Abbey, a rabid environmentalist, wrote the novel "The Monkeywrenching Gang" in 1975. This form of terrorism often involves the destruction of construction sites or industrial equipment. Its most famous expression involves tree spiking, where metal nails and spikes driven into trees help save vast tracts of wilderness or destroy sawmill equipment when the spiked trees are cut for the market. Foreman is very careful about advocating such activities (probably due to his own arrest by the FBI for ecological terrorism), but goes on to give a full account of the pros and cons of taking part in monkeywrenching activities.
In Foreman's world, monkeywrenching becomes a necessity when the big corporations control the political process through bribes, campaign contributions, and intensive lobbying. With the political process closed to serious environmental reforms, the destruction of the environment continues at an unprecedented rate. In chapter after chapter, Foreman describes the destruction of our lands through careless grazing, overzealous logging, and government sponsored extermination campaigns against animals that prey on farming and cattle interests. As the litany of state sanctioned horrors unfold, Foreman's arguments for driving a few spikes in a tree look sensible.
Regrettably, making sense has little to do with many of Foreman's arguments. His ideas of a biocentric philosophy flies in the face of what seems to be a natural human inclination towards technological development. For the most part, people do not want to live in the world Foreman and his ilk hold up as a desirable goal. Foreman's claim that people were healthier and happier before industrialization stretches the truth to the breaking point. Industrialism certainly has its own problems, but the old days were far from perfect. Were people really "happier" in the old days when harsh conditions opened up communities to constant invasion, incurable diseases, and high mortality rates? If they were, why did "progress" and "technology" emerge as a viable system? Ultimately, I am uncomfortable with Foreman and his fellow radicals. Whenever radicals like this get into power, they always end up killing people.
"Confessions of an Eco-Warrior" does try and offer solutions to serious problems in our industrial based system. Unfortunately, the solutions are often worse than the problems. As a primer for learning about the radical environmental fringe, Foreman's book is probably one of the best. Concern for the environment is important and should be a priority for every living person on the planet, but Foreman and his fellow travelers take it way too far.
13 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2004
"A monkeywrench thrown into the gears of the machine may not stop it. But it might delay it, make it cost more. And is feels good to put it there."(Foreman, 23) - Dave Foreman
Author Dave Foreman is the cofounder of Earth First! and self-realized eco-warrior. Published in 1991, Foreman says the main purpose of his book is to motivate potential activists into action. His book lays out his reasoning for engaging in what he calls conservation. He portrays himself as a very mild-mannered, caring, and rational person, and not the radical eco-terrorist I was envisioning. But that should not deter the reader from the underlying message he is selling: humanity is secondary to air, water, land, and animals. And destruction of private property (sometimes risking the lives of humans) is the only means available to accomplish the preservation of Earth. While he lays out some very sound reasons as to why the environment (Earth) is under attack and needs human attention, his methods of execution harm the broader conservancy movement, make little impact on large-scale environmental destruction, and can be dangerous to innocent bystanders.
Of course, Foreman acknowledges that his methods are radical and fall outside of mainstream conservancy. He claims that larger organizations such as the Sierra Club have lost their vision and have become entangled in the bureaucracy of Washington. Foreman says that these mainstream environmental groups achieve nothing through lobbying and other bureaucratic modes. Foreman calls for direct action by motivated individuals to literally throw a monkeywrench into the gears of the machine. Foreman doesn't go into too much detail about how to do this, but makes it clear that disabling bulldozers or spiking trees are the only methods Earth-destroyers respond to (in tree-spiking, long metal nails are driven into trees. When loggers cut them down and send them to the mills, the saw blades are shattered by the spike therefore causing hundred or thousands of dollars in damage. Foreman addresses a specific instance where a saw blade was shattered and pieces of it flew into the faces of the workers. Foreman has the audacity to suggest that the tree-spikers were not to blame. The saw, he says shattered because it was old. A newer blade would've only been dismantled and rendered useless. This disregard for human safety is the core flaw of Foreman's logic. While he reluctantly condemns the use of tree-spiking, it grudgingly takes him awhile to come to that conclusion. Any sane person would see that these actions are destined to harm humans on multiple levels).
Earth First! Principals (quoted directly from the book. This "logic" pretty much says it all):
- A placing of Earth first in all decisions, even ahead of human welfare if necessary.
- A refusal to use human beings as the measure by which to value others.
- An enthusiastic embracing of the philosophy of Deep Ecology or biocentrism.
- A realization that wilderness is the real world.
- A recognition that there are far too many human beings on Earth.
- A deep questioning of, and even an antipathy to, "progress" and "technology."
- A refusal to accept rationality as the only way of thinking.
- A lack of desire to gain credibility or "legitimacy" with the gang of thus running human civilization.
- An effort to go beyond the tired, worn-out dogmas of left, right, and middle-of-the-road.
- An unwillingness to set any ethnic, class, or political group of humans on a pedestal and make them immune from questioning.
- A willingness to let our actions set the finer points of our philosophy and a recognition that we must act.
- An acknowledgment that we must change our personal life-styles to make them more harmonious with natural diversity.
- A commitment to maintaining a sense of humor, and a joy in living.
- An awareness that we are animals.
- An acceptance of monkeywrenching as a legitimate tool for the preservation of natural diversity.
- And finally: Earth First! Is a warrior society. "In addition to our absolute commitment to and love for this living planet, we are characterized by our willingness to defend Earth's abundance and diversity of life, even if that defense requires sacrifices of comfort, freedom, safety, or, ultimately, our lives. A warrior recognizes that her life is not the most important thing in her life. A warrior recognizes that there is a greater reality outside her life that must be defended. For us in Earth First!, that reality is Earth, the evolutionary process, the millions of other species with which we share this bright sphere in the void of space." (Foreman, 26-35)
"It is time for women and men, individually and in small groups, to act heroically in defense of the wild, to put a monkeywrench into the gears of the machine that is destroying natural diversity. Though illegal, this strategic monkeywrenching can be safe, easy, fun, and-most important-effective in stopping timber cutting, road building.............." (Foreman, 113)
I find this aspect of eco-terrorism (ecotage or monkeywrenching as Foreman calls it) the most disturbing. He claims that since moderate, bureaucratic environmentalist groups such as the Sierra Club do nothing in the fight against the Earth-destroying forces, it is therefore up to subversive individuals to take matters into their own hands to stop the machinery of destruction. This, he states, is accomplished through the dismantling and destruction of these mechanisms one by one (spiking trees, rendering bulldozers useless, etc). Foreman claims that monkeywrenchers are acting under the same principles as the Boston Tea Party, Gandhi, the French Resistance, and even Martin Luther King Jr. He claims that in desperate times, laws must be subverted and broken in order to bring about a higher justice. I can agree with the logic that revolution over a corrupt system may be necessary from time to time, but he misses the key ingredient in his historical examples: unity. The American Revolutionaries, Gandhi's non-violence, the anti-Nazi movement, and the civil rights movement all had mass support behind them and were united in a specific cause. Eco-defenders are disjointed, have varying degrees of motivation, and all have different ideas of how environmental concerns should be addressed.
Foreman's assessment, however, is that organized resistance has been tried and doesn't work (he defeats his own logic here. By citing examples of historical, organized resistance, he fails to see that he is actually advocating the opposite: disjointed, random resistance). While Foreman condemns tree-spiking (extremely reluctantly, and with a slight wink-wink as if to say `I have to say that for legal reasons, but go ahead anyway') he fails to realize the uncontrollable juggernaut he's unleashed. Using the theory of virtually unbridled ecotage, eco-warriors have started to use arson as their method of choice. The infamous Hummer dealership that was torched, the fires of Southern California are said to be linked to eco-terrorism, and the burning of housing developments in Arizona have all been very close to harming innocent bystanders. Of course the eco-defender would say that the fact that no humans were hurt is evidence that their actions are just. But as anyone can plainly see (except Foreman), the practice of ecotage is only a few steps away from murder. Somewhere, somehow, somebody is going to be trapped in one of these fires and wind up dead. While Foreman may be able to shape his precise vision of minimally-destructive ecotage, he fails to realize that his approval of reckless youth engaging in unsupervised destruction of property is a recipe for disaster.
Besides the obvious dangers of ecotage to human life, has the practice of monkeywrenching really produced noticeable results? Sure, there's been lots of press and fear generated, but has a single one of these disjointed efforts stopped the great machine in anyway? Foreman acknowledges that the actions of individuals will only achieve small results. He seems to believe that all of these small steps will somehow add up to a reversal of eco-destruction. It is clear that it hasn't and won't. Hummers still roll off the assembly line, urban sprawl is still imminent, and forests are still harvested despite the efforts of a few flea bites.
Foreman's condemnation and frustration with the bureaucratic environmental groups is understandable. They seems to make a lot of noise, but don't really get much accomplished. After all, my air is still dirty, my water is still polluted, and my food is still laden with who-knows-what. I can understand why he would want to take more drastic matters in hand. While it is true that there is a desperate need to reshape the industries and governments which cause these unprecedented pollutants, doing so with such flawed logic as Foreman's is unproductive. Like the American Revolution or the civil rights movement, eco-defenders' only recourse will be unity in cause and action; a cause and action that puts humans on the same level as Earth and its other inhabitants, not as secondary citizens prone to harm.