Sep 21, 2011

Activists In A Forest Of Thieves

The last few posts were very difficult to write as they involve ideas that belong to everyone... Regarding other animals fate: welfare or abolition.  Regarding activism... Passive or aggressive.  I've seen how even the heavy-hitters can have heaps of contrary opinions cast on them... I suppose I avoided all that by staying on a flexible fence - Because I really don't have the answers for everyone - Only mine that I admit are often uncertain.

But here I am again, offering two stories that include direct action in an attempt to save life... These stories struck me in a personal way as I wrote here.

In December 1997, Julia Hill climbed a thousand-year-old redwood tree vowing to not come down until it was saved from being clear-cut. She lived 180 feet off the ground for more than two years, galvanizing an already intense dispute over the fate of Northern California's old-growth forests. Wolens' film is a primer on forest issues and direct-action environmentalism, but most of all, it is about the spiritual journey of a determined, articulate woman nicknamed Butterfly who saved an ancient tree she called Luna.

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front explores two of America's most pressing issues — environmentalism and terrorism — by lifting the veil on a radical environmental group the FBI calls America's "number one domestic terrorism threat." Daniel McGowan, a former member of the Earth Liberation Front, faces life in prison for two multimillion-dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. What turned this working-class kid from Queens into an eco-warrior? Marshall Curry (Oscar®-nominated Street Fight, POV 2005) provides a nuanced and provocative account that is part coming-of-age story, part cautionary tale and part cops-and-robbers thriller.

Again, I have no conclusions as to what can be done to stop the destructive course we humans are on... These are just some solutions others have been forced to take.  And until someone shows me a better way - They are heroes to me...


veganelder said...

They are heroes not matter what and we all must begin moving toward a stance that resembles theirs. Your writings about this are informative and astute...thank you.

veganelder said...

Also...I can't type...They are heroes NO matter what...

CQ said...

What fascinating footage of those few who couldn't stand by watching crimes against nature just happen.

I'd heard Julia Butterfly Hill's name over the years but had never seen a film on her. What a brave young woman. Those Earth First folks are right: she never would have lasted in that tree for more than a few days if they hadn't rallied 'round and supported her in every way. I was touched by her father's admissions of what he has learned from Julia's courage and commitment.

When I look at the violence perpetrated on the old-growth forests, on the pristine mountaintops, on the pure rivers and vast oceans -- and on the denizens of all those habitats -- it appalls me to think that these "crimes" are actually legal.

And all for what? Dollars? Are people really so fearful of not being able to find another productive line of work that they cling to a job even when it harms the environment, is an eyesore, and leads to moral bankruptcy?

It seems that the Charles Hurwitzes of the world prey upon decent peoples' desire to feed their families. It seems, too, that the huge corporations that bulldoze everything in the pursuit of profit -- and everyone who gets in their way -- are the real terrorists.

I deeply understand the frustration of those who feel powerless to stop the rape, theft, torture and murder of the earth and by extension of its inhabitants. I don't think exchanging one crime for another is the way to alter soulless corporate behavior, however. Arson doesn't teach loggers or timber titans to care.

I believe that modeling goodness, unselfishness, mercy and justice is the only way to teach others the joys of caring for the natural world and for the people -- human and nonhuman -- who inhabit that natural world.

In time -- and eternity -- each individual must discover for himself that living an unself-centered life, free of violence and condemnation, satisfies the spirit as nothing else can.

Bea Elliott said...

Hi VE - Totally understood. When I listened and learned that already 95% of our old growth forests were gone - It shocked me. Honestly... Is it radical or extremist to try to save what remains? If so, I wonder when then is the time to become outraged? Thanks for your back-up on what I see too. ;)

Bea Elliott said...

Hi CQ - Thought you'd like Butterfly Hill... Yes, she was motivated by a deep spiritual connection to Luna. Her conviction and certainty is inspirational.

Yes, sadly it can only be money that spurs on the decimation (elimination) of the planet... Everything (everyone) is a "resource".

I sometimes wonder if we could place a time-lapse camera on the whole of Earth - It might resemble what a colony of insects do to a piece of fruit... All so busy grabbing their piece. In one moment it doesn't seem like there's much harm. Multiply it by 7 billion, that take 24/7 and it's ravenous.

I appreciate what you say about the end goal being only achievable through the elimination of violence... That would be the ideal. But I don't hold out any hope for that given the scale and speed of the way things are digressing. Can one really reason with a Hitler, an Attila, an ogre? Maybe... In time as you say. I just wonder though - By then will there be anything left to save?

There are only a few scenarios that will manifest for future generations... One in which they will look upon direct actions with gratitude or blame. (But can the destruction go any faster because it's protested?)... The ineffective peace-keeping that will beg the question: Why didn't you do something??? Or finally, the one that they will thank for it's harmonious wisdom that influenced all the virtues you cite... My deepest hopes are for the latter.

Thanks for your input.

David Ashton said...

The time-lapse camera idea sounds like it could make great short documentary. Judging by recent fiction movies, it could probably be represented pretty realistically by computer animation. What a shocker it would be when it suddenly stops at the present and we see how the momentum of our destruction has been building up. I think we need all the shockers and wake up calls we can get. I love your work Bea.

Harry said...

Hi Bea

I'm a bit late to the party this time but will add a little - for any Google search of 'Tasmania' will bring up truckloads of articles on the forestry debate still taking place on this Australian island of Paradise. Yep, the forestry issue burns deep inside - for both Mother Earth and for being representative of much that is wrong with how us humans go about things.

But firstly, I'd like to echo David: I love your work Bea. What you find. How you put it together. Thank you.

Butterfly Hill became a hero of mine shortly after she climbed Luna. Living in Tasmania, daily witnessing log trucks carrying the fragments of clear-felled old-growth forests, trucks on their way to woodchipping facilities, woodchips on the way to docks for export to Asia where they'll be pulped into paper ... Destruction heavily subsidised by your very own tax dollar. Well, how can you live in Tasmania and not have Butterfly Hill as a hero? (That is, unless you're making sqillions through the clearfelling, are a bamboozled employee who believes their company will look after them, or care little for what we leave behind.)

After many decades the tables have turned. Pressure on those importing the woodchips has caused them to stop importing woodchips sourced from old-growth forests. Prices for woodchips have plummeted. And the major company's shares have had such massive drops they have frequently had to halt trading. The solution: a combined state/ federal bailout for the Forestry Industry (after they minted it for many years) that gives a very handsome payout to the major company for exiting old-growth forests!!! Yep, you read that right. They are being paid to exit an industry from which they've made record profits in the past but which is now no longer profitable. And here's the real beauty: How much compensation are the faithful, trusted, low paid workers going to get? Pittance for the lucky ones. Nothing for the rest. All the big guns get the money first. Little will flow to the loyal we-need-to-cut-down-old-growth-forests-for-our-livelihood workers.

Yes, Butterfly Hill is a real hero. Like CQ though, while I share the frustration, I do not believe violence is the way to halt the seemingly endless journey of destruction. One must lead by example. And, using your reference to Hitler and Attila, we must choose wisely who we follow; Hitler and Attila would have been powerless without followers.

Bea Elliott said...

Gee David... Aside from the sci-fi movies some recent documentaries have been extremely alarming too - Yes? I'm thinking of mainstream films such as An Inconveinent Truth, Home, The 11th Hour and so on, that clearly show we're in serious trouble... Yet, the public remains unmoved - It's worriesome.

We do need the wake up calls! But what is the saying? You cannot awaken someone who pretends to be asleep.

Only after the last tree is cut down,
The last of the water poisoned,
The last animal destroyed...
Only then will you realize
You cannot eat money. ~ Cree Indian Prophecy

Thank you for your efforts to change our course for the better - With enough good voices they surely will arouse from slumber.

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Harry! Oh I can see why there would be anger at the thought of any damage to this beautiful, beautiful piece of earth! The photos I saw are breathtaking! The mountains, rivers, lakes and forests - Stunning! Perfect! But of course those motivated by wants and greed only see the resources - Not the wonder or the life. So sad...

I imagine seeing the logging trucks as heartbreaking as watching the transport trucks carrying the animal-victims to their end... The helpless watching must feed everyone's frustrations. Your system of subsidies in Tasmania work the same way as our Division of Forestry... They are there to grease the way for industry. It's maddening how they've got the profits game rigged.

I see too that the Tasmanian Aborigines suffered the same fate as the Native Americans... Once colonial culture entered their world - So came the diseases, the poverty, exploitation and demise. Some of the time I wonder if it is all humans that go about things wrong - Or just the "civilized" ones?

...Choosing wisely who we follow - I totally agree!

Thanks for your voice and for giving me the chance to explore lovely Tasmania. I'm glad she is safe for now. Keep her protected... I know you will!

Have Gone Vegan said...

I'm completely late to the party (in fact, I guess the party's already over!), and don't have anything else to add to the great comments provided already, but just wanted to chime in to say that I'll be passing along the links to these last two posts to another blogger. Keep up the good work, Bea! :)

Bea Elliott said...

Hi HGV! Oh I wish this particular party was over and that we'd move on to other things...

One of my favorite quotes by the late Shirley Wilkes-Johnson is this: "Creating a compassionate vegan world is the most important social change the world has ever seen. I want to get beyond this so we can just play."

But I know each of us continues to fight in our own way till we get there... Thanks for all you do to speed that along as well. xox