Earth First! Journal Volume 1, Issue #1-8 (1980-1981)
“Like Pallas Athena springing fully armed from the brow of Zeus, EARTH FIRST enters the wilderness fray…”
Earth First Journal. Vol.1 #1.
For all of its many flaws, I love Earth First! and most of the many projects that it has inspired, and I say that as someone fully aware of all the mistakes that have been made along the way. Those errors- everything from alliances with open racists like Ed Abbey to articles cheerleading famine in Africa- are ultimately what makes the history of Earth First! such a valuable roadmap for modern revolutionaries. Earth First!’s fuck-ups are at times so glaring that my hope is, after examining them, there is no way they could be made again.
But every analysis of EF! these days talks about the mistakes- so much so that we miss the things that they got right: a structure that rejected hierarchy and encouraged horizontal organizing, a critique of civilization and industrialism that still left room for broad participation from more conservative and liberal elements, and a shockingly warm pluralism that encouraged a love for all kinds of “wilderfreaks” including the vegetarians and “witches” that Foreman so famously dislikes. For all of the machismo in those early years, I was surprised to see hints of eco-feminism creeping into these issues, including a giant pull-quote from Woman and Nature by Susan Griffin. Words from figures like Russel Means abound, and for every cringe inducing moment in these pages I think you’ll also find plenty to make you smile. I mean, how cool is it that the return address on issue #1 is Dave Foreman’s house, or that requests for new volunteers ran alongside Susan Morgan’s home phone number? This was as grassroots as it gets, yet somehow the movement spread across oceans and artificial borders, and to this day people are shouting “No Compromise In Defense of Mother Earth!” Understanding how that happened might be the key to expanding our current efforts.
TALON will be posting every single issue of the Earth First! Journal over the next few years. This project isn’t cheap or easy! If you would like to make a donation of either time, back issues, or money, please contact us HERE. Also, don’t forget that this important publication is still running and needs your support! Subscribe HERE!
Do Or Die #1-10 (1993-2003, Brighton, England.)
A few years ago a friend asked me if I had a complete set of Do or Die, the British Earth First! publication that inspired and incited eco-warriors throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. At one time I did have them, but they had long since been stolen by a Joint Terrorism Task Force.
After a brief discussion, we decided that Do or Die was too important to fade into obscurity. We began tracking down each issue, and decided that while we were at it we ought to archive some other publications as well. That effort is how this web site began, and now, thanks to 56a infoshop of South London and Tim @ NEDS Northampton, we can finally share the very rare issue #2. This completes our collection, and our original mission as well.
When read as a set, Do or Die is a chronicle of people from across the globe counter-striking capitalism, ecocide, and the state. Each issue is better than the last, but more importantly, each page is a spark licking at the fuse of the bomb that is your heart. Once lit, you’ll know that these pages are not mere history, but a reminder that we can explode onto the world stage like the fighters before us have. Do or die, now is the time to rise.
Earth First! Journal Volume 7, Issue #1-8 (Tucson, AZ.)
One of our dreams here at Conflict Gypsy has been to build a complete collection of the Earth First! Journal, the radical environmental movement’s longest running periodical. While we are still missing some key issues, we have managed to gather enough of this classic publication to begin posting them one year at a time, starting with 1986.
The eight newspaper-format volumes printed by the Journal collective in 1986 are filled with fascinating tales of our eco-warrior progenitors, including Paul Watson’s epic telling of The Raid on Reykjavic in issue two. It is tempting to spend several paragraphs discussing the contents of these yellowing tomes, but perhaps it is more important to spend these words discussing the fact that the journal is still being produced- AND IT NEEDS OUR SUPPORT!
The Earth First! Journal has been documenting environmentally motivated direct action for more than 30 years, but it struggles to pay the bills these days as fewer and fewer people read print magazines. Here at CG we believe wholeheartedly that history should be “told from below,” that the words of our comrades are more important to our understanding of past events than the musings of academics and professional historians. The Journal is still the best source for this kind of news- the written accounts of actual participants in our struggle! Please do not let it disappear like so many other publications in the last decade. Subscribe to the Earth First! Journal by clicking here!
Lomakatsi #1, 2, 3, and 4 (1987-1989, Washington, DC)
Many of the participants in the first boom of U.S. animal liberation activity were radicals, and not just when it came to their critique of non-human slavery. As I have mentioned in previous posts, speciesism is so intrinsic to most cultures that people embracing a pro-animal ethic almost always came from the fringes. These early pioneers pushed the message, took direct action, and put the plight of animals front and center in works of art, music, and literature. What became of these rebels when the movement became more mainstream, and thus more profitable to the careerists at national organizations? As a generation of gray, corporate pseudo-activists began to wield suits and ties instead of spanners and bolt cutters the old guard revolted in a variety of ways- one of which was an eclectic, anarchist journal known as Lomakatsi.
Taking the Hopi word for “Life in Balance,” a small collective of artists and activists set out to reject the dominant themes running through other, tamer publications. More than that, they started a project to live communally on a small parcel of land and experiment with more sustainable, less technological ways of living. By sharing their space with each other, and their thoughts with the world, the rebels continued to have an impact on the direction of the mvoement.
During it’s short life, Lomakatsi circulated about 1,000 copies per issue, introduced anti-civilization themes to AR folks through articles by John Zerzan, (And a letter from Feral Faun in one issue!) and stirred up plenty of controversy. Each issue contained DIY instructions for sabotage, oddball illustrations and comics, and advocacy for some ideas that were challenging to say the least. Their intentional community eventually stopped producing a journal, but those following animal liberation history will certainly see the influence that Lomakatsi had on our movement’s dialogue as we moved into the 1990s.
Do Or Die #1,3,4. (1993-1994, Brighton, England.)
When a group of five environmentalists gave birth to Earth First! in 1979 they could have hardly imagined how far the movement would spread and how influential its politics would become. From humble roots in the Southwest, chapters began proliferating across the United States and soon left its borders as the worldwide eco-catastrophe inspired people everywhere to take action. In 1992 the first British Earth First! chapter was founded, and within a year one of the most exciting periods of mass direct action in modern history was well underway.
From the start the movement in the UK seemed a little smarter than their US counterparts, perhaps because they had learned from the worst offenses of the fledgling stateside groups. Eschewing the more anti-social elements of American deep ecologists, our comrades across the pond sought to build a broader base and included those working in other movements. They also seemed to have a creative flare for mischief, and their best actions not only stopped the despoilers- they also put a smile on the face of rebels everywhere.
The spectacular campaigns of the UK EF!ers were covered in Do or Die!, a wonderfully self-critical journal that started as a small newsletter and blossomed into a massive annual tome by the end of its existence. Find the other issues HERE.
The Black Cat Sabotage Handbook, 3rd edition (1996, Eugene, OR.)
When I was a kid the world didn’t have the sort of instant gratification now expected for all transactions, and thank goodness. You can really appreciate the value of something more once you’ve clipped five proof of purchases, put them into an envelope, mailed them away, and waited 6 to 8 weeks for your Zartan action figure to arrive. Distribution for the Black Cat Sabotage book worked the same way – you clipped an ad out of a zine and mailed it in along with concealed cash. A few months later a copy showed up in a nondescript envelope. I still remember when mine was delivered…
My first copy of Black Cat left me feeling like I was involved in some sort of conspiracy just turning the pages. Sure, most of it was reprints that I had already seen before, but the layout, the graphics, and the text all seemed to carry the message that action was urgent and that the enemy was watching. (Of course, we were all sending envelopes with our return addresses to the same damn PO Box in Eugene, so if anyone was watching they already knew who we were!) At the time I didn’t know who was publishing or distributing it, but rumors eventually surfaced in the mid 2000’s that the book was compiled by Bill Rogers, an accused Earth Liberation Front member who took his own life behind bars in 2005. In his suicide note he said that his death was a “Jail break,” and as he slowly suffocated himself with a plastic bag he gripped one hand into a fist, and with the other, extended his middle finger.
I only met Bill one or two times and did not get to know him well, but since his death I have heard many complicated things about him. From what I gather he was at times heroic, but had some serious, perhaps unforgivable flaws that should not be ignored. In that respect he is like the book that he was rumored to have clipped together and sent out anonymously. The Black Cat Sabotage Handbook contains some good bits of information, some serious inspiration, and some decent arguments for the use of sabotage and even violence. Likewise, it also contains some foolhardy nonsense that could get someone jailed or killed for little positive gain. The cover shouts, “BEWARE!” and smart readers will heed that advice.
In closing, here is to Bill. He was a man I can best respect by keeping off a pedestal. I can not deny that many of the stories about him are disconcerting, but I also can not deny the beauty of his attempts to spark a revolution against industrialism. As his friends sat shivering and complaining in a car, it was Bill who trekked alone through snow, uphill and burdened with the weight of gallons of fuel to set a fire that would announce to millions the existence of the Earth Liberation Front. That speaks volumes about his fighting spirit, and his wild drive to right the wrongs our species has perpetrated. His death saddens me, but something tells me that someone so intent on freeing others would not have done well spending decades behind bars- perhaps in that sense his “jail break” really was a form of escape. He will be remembered as a warrior.