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Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.

Earth First! activists are no more crackpots than are redneck loggers who believe the myth that wilderness preservation has eliminated their jobs. (Overcutting plus automated logging and milling have taken away 70 percent of the jobs that existed 50 years ago.) Given their starting premises, both sides have an orderly logic, and every logger should read these "confessions" by the cofounder and now ex-member of America's most radical environmental organization.

Foreman's premise that admits no compromise is that animals and trees have an unalienable right at least to life and liberty if not the pursuit of happiness. That premise is an article of faith and cannot be proved any more than Jefferson could have proved it true for American colonists.

The reader who can accept it for an hour or two will be able to undertstand the internal logic of Earth First! and similar activist groups. Given this premise, Foreman can justify spiking trees as a last measure of defense--an argument to which he devotes a whole chapter. Along the way he lays to rest some of the sensationalism around a 1987 incident in which a spike shattered the jaw of a mill worker. Nevertheless, Foreman recognizes that spiking trees often loses more battles than it wins.

Foreman was not born with a wild look in his eye. He began his environmental career as a coat-and-tie wilderness lobbyist, a believe in compromise and moderation. When Ronald Reagan came to office in 1980, bringing with him James Watt, Foreman began considering his own past, decided he had won nothing, and started fighting fire with fire.

This formula throughout history has consistently burned up a lot of bautiful real estate and innocent people, but such facts of human nature don't disturb Foreman in his defense of the rest of nature. And although Foreman has resigned from Earth First! (but not ecosabotage), he boasts that the organization "has accomplished much of what it set out to do." Namely it has "restructured the conservation spectrum and redefined the parameters of debate on ecological matters." This reminds me mightily of the rhetoric I have read and heard so often traveling in communist countries.

Earth First! and Dave Foreman are not communists, but they share the same blind vanity. Telling us what nature wants, and telling us that Earth First! can read its mind is akin to claiming to have had a chat with God. It is this kind of vanity that justifies any means to achieve its sacred ends.

For all of this Foreman makes an honest confession and his self doubt and questioning are convincing. "Is tree spiking really effective? Is it of significant value in stopping the logging of our forests? . . . I dunno." Maybe his ability to question his own tactics will lead him to the most interesting question about civil disobedience.

What would happen to his cause and its followers in a society where the rule of law is defunct? That would be a society in which angry loggers would have nothing to fear from following a timber country legislator who urged them to "spike an Earth Firster."
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:516
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