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.
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