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Earth First! and the Environmental Movement

by Susan Zakin

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-83618-4
Publisher: Viking

 A ranging and generally cogent portrait--and defense--of Earth First!, the activist organization dedicated to the proposition that, as far as Earth is concerned, humans should return to the Pleistocene. Earth First! was born in 1980, the brainchild of four disgruntled wilderness activists tired of the posturing and infighting that had come to represent established environmental groups. Zakin, an environmental journalist, tells us that the four yearned for something purer, for actions that would dramatically bring the plight of the planet to the public's eye. So the group turned to guerrilla theater (unfurling a huge ``crack'' down the front of Glen Canyon Dam), monkey-wrenching, and direct action (sit-ins one hundred feet up old-growth trees) to get their message across. A cultivated anarchy was what they were after: inspired chaos that flew in the face of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, with their hierarchies and pen pushers--and this confrontational style eventually got Earth First! in trouble. As political theater, the group's members may have been showstoppers, but their say-anything approach alienated many. Zakin chronicles Earth First!'s activities in extraordinary detail while sketching in the many historical influences on the group, from Luddites to Populists to Wobblies. There's no doubt that the author has done her homework, but her relentless bad-girl pose (she slings crudities with the best) can be grating, as can her idolatry of the ecowarriors (when not ``brilliant'' or ``legends,'' they're at least ``inspirational'' or ``getting laid by enthusiastic supporters''). Crisp--though not objective--reportage: a useful complement to Earth First! founder Dave Foreman's Confessions of an Eco-Warrior (1991).