Categories Archives: Direct Action

How to Stop Off Road Vehicles, Part 2

By Michael Carter, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Law enforcement has been so ineffective in preventing illegal ORV use that citizens are usually left to face the problem on their own. Stopping ORVs isn’t easy, but short of an end to gasoline—which we can’t wait for—impacts will continue to worsen if there’s no intervention. In remote areas like the Mojave Desert and Colorado Plateau, where would-be activists are scattered and overwhelmed and the police are essentially powerless and blasé, all strategies for stopping ORVs involve active and sustained effort. Here are a few:

Pressure law enforcement to do their jobs. Carry a camera with you always, and photograph illegal activity, if at all possible getting clear images of license plates. Document the time, place, and circumstances. Bring it to the attention of both the local and federal police, if on federal land. Be polite but persistent.

Physically close illegal trails. This can be surprisingly effective. Adopt an area and close off illegal trails with rocks, logs, whatever is handy and doesn’t further disturb the land. ORVers will keep trying to use the trail, but continued discouragement might eventually work.

Physically close legal trails. Similar to the last category, people may choose to carry out underground actions that close legal routes.[1] There must be a strict firewall between aboveground and underground activists: people or groups choosing to use underground tactics should not engage in aboveground actions, and vice versa.[2]

Close and reclaim established, authorized routes through administrative and legal channels. It’s the open roads that draw ORVs deeper into land they can then illegally violate, so every closed road is particularly helpful. This, too, takes a long and sustained effort. One helpful organization is Wildlands CPR (Now Wild Earth Guardians),[3] but don’t expect any non-profit group to have the resources to do the job for you. If you love the land you live in, be prepared to fight for it—a simple solution of hard, dedicated effort. Organize with those who agree with you, and fight.

 

Coyote Canyon Revisited

Private landowners neighboring Coyote Canyon in southeast Utah fought the originally illegal ORV use of the canyon, and tried to stop the BLM from sanctioning it. They pleaded with the public via every venue they could think of to write letters to the BLM opposing the move, yet ORV interests grossly outnumbered the effort. Fewer than ten opponents to the trail even bothered writing letters, and when the decision to open the canyon to ORVs was made the BLM didn’t even bother notifying the respondents, a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Otherwise, however, the agency had prepared its documents thoroughly and neighbors were advised that a legal challenge probably wouldn’t have been effective. Although the BLM offered a number of concessions—the trail is only open Friday and Saturday to registered users, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., among other restrictions—the agency legitimized crime, rewarding criminals with the sacrifice of another dwindling scrap of feral public land.

The Coyote Canyon example highlights several reasons why so few are willing to protect the land, and why they’re losing so badly. One is fear of reprisals from enemies (such as intentional trespass and vandalism of property, already an issue for neighbors of Coyote Canyon). Another is a reasonable assumption that their efforts will be ineffective—though of course making no effort will certainly be ineffective. Yet people tend to accept whatever situation they’re given. It’s uncommon to question an established arrangement, whatever it may be, and if one continues to question it life gets more uncomfortable. A resister will always face ridicule, accusations of poor mental, emotional and social adjustment, eventual ostracizing and occasionally murder. Yet social changes demand challenges to established practice.

When the BLM announced their decision to open Coyote Canyon to oil spills, noise, litter, piles of shit and soiled rags of toilet paper, almost everyone who was asked to help offered only a passing moment of sympathy. Not “what can I do,” not “what are our options,” but “that’s too bad.” It’s no wonder fights like this are frequently lost, when reactions are so feeble.

Industry and recreation groups, by contrast, are well organized and ready to rush to their own common cause. The right wing tends to be more accepting of orders; the boss says jump, they ask how high. They have something tangible they’re working for, a thing they like doing, a righteous maintenance of their privilege—such as driving anywhere they want. They stand to gain something where resistance stands only to prevent something—at least in situations like Coyote Canyon, where no comparable force opposes them.

Fighting Back

Resistance is tough. It means making one’s self unpopular, a hard thing to do among those who’ve been taught their whole lives that popularity is everything. Organizing can provide the possibility of overcoming our fear of reprisal, of ridicule, and of failure; it’s the only chance at effectively confronting injustices.   Those who wish to prevent agency actions like the Coyote Canyon trail, or to promote re-localization of food production—any defensive or restorative action—can become an effective force if they work together, consistently and reliably supporting one another. Many progressives have been bled off by dogmas of non-confrontation, by intoxicating feel-good-ness, and by the idea that individualism is of primary importance. They’ve become lazy, fatalistic, and cynical; committed, organized struggle seems to be the sorry lot of desperately poor people in faraway places.

The examples that we have of committed resistance movements often are of desperately poor people, immediately threatened by the activities of rich and powerful enemies. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is one good example, and so are the more than 130 First Nations governments in western Canada that have gathered against the tar-sands Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker projects.[4] We who are in a position to protect the land mostly lack the ability to respond, to turn our empathy for places like Coyote Canyon into action.

The situation at the frontiers of wild land is desperate, too. Wealth and privilege let us pretend it isn’t, because we get food from supermarket shelves and water from a tap. We see little or no connection between the health of the land and our own well-being. Public land use is an issue that can be influenced relatively easily—unlike, say, racism—because land managers so routinely ignore or violate laws and effective tactics usually have to do with citizen enforcement. But environmentalists continue to lose, partly because exploiters have miscast conflict as user-group obstruction—framing the terms of the debate to ridicule love of the wild world, separating its fate from human fate. By allowing this, would-be activists surrender the land and leave the future to sadists and imbeciles.

The destruction of the planet, however easy it is to ignore, will catch up with us all. The civilized economies that steal from the poor to give to the rich will eventually end. They need to consume limited resources to exist and those resources—fossil fuels, topsoil—will not last forever. When this happens, we will again depend upon the land to sustain us. If that land is stripped of its capacity to sustain life by industry, agriculture, and recreation, then there will be nowhere else to go, and nothing to do but wage war and starve.

Abuse of the land is now normalized by faith in nonexistent frontiers (of renewable energy and electric cars, for example) and by misguided tolerance. Naming abuse—the destruction of the land in the name of fun or individualistic pursuits and the destruction of our selves by abusive people and systems—is often portrayed as abusive in itself. This is outrageous and infuriating, but should be expected.

Though it is far less damaging than industry and agriculture, the evidence for ORV destruction is well documented and easy to come by. It’s not even really contested by ORVers themselves. Those of us determined to stop this behavior face the same problem law enforcement does: the damage is so widespread and difficult to regulate that there’s little anyone can do. But there’s also a serious lack of activists with effective tactics and a coherent strategy to follow through on. This doesn’t mean, though, that we should back down.

 

Identifying with the Real World

Once on Cedar Mesa, in Southeast Utah, I watched an ORV intentionally veer to crush a dozing snake. The reptile churned and writhed in the machine’s track, dead or near dead as its nerves popped and struggled and ran down. I went to it, to witness its pointless death. A thick and handsome bull snake, it spent its last moments bleeding out in the dust. Why? Why do this? What drives this sick, stupid behavior? Why does our culture hate every living thing?

I lifted the snake into the sage and blackbrush so it could at least die in its home. “If they can’t evolve to get out of the way,” someone once told me about road killed animals, “then that’s their problem.” Of course, not evolving to changing conditions is what causes extinction. There’s little doubt that our culture will not voluntarily evolve to halt the worsening conditions that industry and recreation are creating on the planet. So how does anyone fight activity like this? How do we stop deforestation, global warming, ocean acidification? And given those immense problems, is ORV land abuse something to focus limited energy and resources on?

In addition to the suggestions made in these articles, activists can develop tactics and strategies and their way forward will eventually become clear. With hard work and determination a chance of winning would almost certainly emerge. But in a world of Keystone XL pipelines and epidemic levels of fracking, is the effort worth it? If you caretake a few acres of land, blocking travel and pulling weeds, how much does it matter if you stop, or get distracted, or die? If those acres are again immediately vulnerable, is your effort a waste?

Few things anger me more that seeing wanton destruction for fun. I wonder, though, if this is an unhelpful distraction. It’s easy to get angry at something so obviously disrespecting of the land. In terms of permanent impacts, though, industry is much worse, and the scale of destruction is enormous. Of course what runs it is oil. Always this—the temporary, illusory power locked in a liquid hydrocarbon, driving ORVs, factory fishing trawlers, factory farms, and industrial agriculture. It’s warming the atmosphere and leading us to a horribly impoverished future, where most of us will be unable to afford the lifestyle we’ve been subjected and addicted to, let alone find enough to eat.

Remove the oil and the engines stop, and a besieged biosphere can begin to heal. This is part of the strategy that Deep Green Resistance has proposed.[5] But in the meanwhile…ORVs, just one part of the picture, continue to cut apart what little wild life remains, the last seed bank of evolution as we’ll ever know it. The momentum of established civilized practice is now enormous—seemingly unstoppable—and its terminal is in global destruction, the eradication of all complex life. Challenge to this system is so psychologically and practically difficult that most of us ignore it.

Fighting for the real, wild world can begin with the understanding that humans are not everything, and that the fate of the world is ultimately our fate. It is much different to fight for your own beloved family than for a rocky canyon you’ll never visit. We progressives like to talk about how hatred of “other” races cannot be tolerated (not that much is ever done about that). But we hardly ever extend this principle to the non-human world—constant victim of our culture’s violence—because we’ve been conditioned to believe that humans are all that matter. The loons, the snakes, the too-slow creatures smeared across the roads and ground under rubber tires into the dirt, they and the people yet to come who won’t be able to live as we have because the oil is gone—none of them will care about our abstract, self-indulgent moral wrestling. That is the wall that human supremacy has built around us; it must be torn down.

Imagine again that an occupying culture, whose every act is force and theft, was destroying the means of your survival. Imagine them extracting fuel to use the world as a playground. Of course, it is not enough to stop them from driving their toys in every possible place. To survive in the long term we must also stop the extraction, the root of the problem, and eliminate the fuel for destruction. We must reclaim our adult responsibilities and stand up to defend the land where we live, knowing that until oil extraction and consumption is ended, there will always be a new group of occupiers finding new ways to destroy the land.

Endnotes

[1] Foreman, Dave. Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. Tucson: Ned Ludd Books, 1987, 89-109.

[2] Security Culture: A Handbook for Activists, accessed August 30, 2014, http://security.resist.ca/personal/securebooklet.pdf

[3] “Resources,” Wild Earth Guardians, accessed July 13, 2014, http://www.wildlandscpr.org

[4] Carrie Saxifrage, “How the Enbridge Pipeline Issue Unified Northern BC,” The Vancouver Observer, February 13, 2012, http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/2012/02/13/nation-building-how-enbridge-pipeline-issue-unified-northern-bc

“Interior First Nations Pipeline Ban,” Dogwood Initiative, You Tube, December 2, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G5KtqPSW8Q

Carrie Saxifrage, “No Oil Pipeline Here: Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel in Smithers finds 100% opposition,” The Vancouver Observer, January 17, 2012, http://www.vancouverobserver.com/sustainability/2012/01/17/enbridge-northern-gateway-joint-review-panel-smithers-finds-100-opposition

[5] “Decisive Ecological Warfare,” Deep Green Resistance, accessed August 28, 2014, http://deepgreenresistance.org/en/deep-green-resistance-strategy/decisive-ecological-warfare

Diné plan to block access for uranium transport

Originally posted on Southwest Earth First!:

Protect Mt. Taylor: No Uranium Mining On Sacred Lands!

From the Albuquerque Journal:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A uranium mining company seeking a mineral lease on state land in northwestern Arizona could have a hard time transporting the ore off-site because of the Navajo Nation’s objections to an industry that left a legacy of death and disease among tribal members.

The section of land in Coconino County is surrounded by the Navajo Nation’s Big Boquillas Ranch. The tribe has said it will not grant Wate Mining Company LLC permission to drive commercial trucks filled with chunks of uranium ore across its land to be processed at a milling site in Blanding, Utah.

The Navajo Nation was the site of extensive uranium mining for weapons during the Cold War. Although most of the physical hazards, including open mine shafts, have been fixed at hundreds of sites, concerns of radiation hazards remain.

The tribe banned uranium mining on its lands…

View original 396 more words

Cultures of Resistance

The book Deep Green Resistance studies the American Civil Rights Movement, the British Women’s Social and Political Union, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. All these “cultures of resistance” provide loyal support for their members, so they may do the difficult work of demanding social and political change. I’ve looked into a few other such cultures and offer them here:

An excellent example is the diverse resistance put up by many ethnic minorities to Burma’s military dictatorship. The State Law and Restoration Council (SLORC), a military junta of General Ne Win, took control of Burma in 1962 and renamed it Myanmar. Already troubled by decades of British colonialism and a 1942 Japanese invasion, Burma’s diverse peoples—Rohingya, Karen, Padaung, Mons, Kachins, Akha, many more—were subjected to enslavement, rape, forced prostitution, all the usual manner of violence committed by the powerful against the powerless.

The military government also (as usual) sold off great swaths of forest to foreign timber companies, and seized slaves and land for other economic enterprises like railroads and agriculture. The Burmese human-rights disaster is somewhat well-known for the politician Aung San Suu Kyi, kept under arrest by the SLORC despite her overwhelming 1990 election win. The movie Beyond Rangoon also has publicized this struggle. Though exactly the sort of entrenched oppression supposedly condemned by the West, the very opposite of democracy, no serious intervention was ever mounted from outside Burma. One reason, perhaps, is that the SLORC’s business partners were familiar to anyone in the US: Amoco, Texaco, and PepsiCo, then owners of Pepsi-Cola, Taco Bell, Frito Lay, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut. Admiring the bravery of Aung San Suu Kyi is one thing—she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her devoted, nonviolent activism—divesting from an obscure overseas horror when there’s cash to be made, quite another.

Though there were some UN efforts to alleviate the suffering in Burma, by and large the people were on their own. There would be no cavalcade of outraged freedom fighters taking on the SLORC or its army, the Tatmadaw, on behalf of the 300,000 Rohingya refugees forcibly displaced into desperate camps in neighboring Bangladesh. It’s frankly impossible for most people in the US to imagine just how terrifying this sort of frontier resource warfare really is; I surely can’t begin to grasp it. Human rights activist Edith T. Mirante writes: “[T]he Refugees described a systematic campaign of terror-rape by the Tatmadaw. A military buildup in the area had apparently been accompanied by one of the largest-scale uses of tactical rape in Asia since Japan’s 1937 occupation of Nanking, China. It is worth noting that present-day [1993] Burma is ruled by a general trained under that same Japanese fascist military.” Women and young girls from the frontier zones were also abducted and sold to Thai brothels. They were advertised as being “AIDS free,” but as Mirante writes, “they don’t remain AIDS free for long.”

Women traditionally held positions of respect within their pre-colonial communities, and this carried forward into the resistance to the military dictatorship. The Shan people believed a woman’s bullet could defeat an enemy’s defensive magic, and I daresay they were right. Mon women—the Mon are a Buddhist people—served in the rebel army in combat roles, “perhaps inspired by Chama Devi, queen of an ancient Mon empire.” There was scarcely anything so fearsome to Burma’s tribal people as a tattooed woman with a gun. A well-organized, complementary non-violent strategy played an important role, as well: “[E]thnic minority women in exile have worked tirelessly to make people in other countries aware of Burma’s plight. Shan, Karen, Kachins, Pa-O, and other female activists have organized demonstrations around the world, lobbied governments and international organizations for refugee aid, and publicized issues like the destruction of Burma’s rain forests and the threats of AIDS and forced prostitution.”

A similar coalition of indigenous peoples in Canada has recently formed to fight tar sands pipelines and oil tanker traffic in the lands and waters that have sustained them for thousands of years. In a rare, breathtaking show of solidarity, “more than 130 First Nations governments in western Canada have firmly declared that they do not support the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and that they will not support such projects anywhere in the traditional territories of opposed First Nations; as a result, there is unprecedented unified opposition to both the Enbridge and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker projects,” according to West Coast Environmental Law. Canada’s tar sands mines are so outrageously destructive, so obviously the last desperate grasping of the end of the oil age, that opposition is finally beginning to match the scale of the psychopathology driving such activity. The coalition-building and superb organizing is a model to be admired and duplicated.

In a very different part of the world, the alliance Moskitia Asia Takanka has defended the tropical Moskitia rainforest and Patuca River from the occupying Honduran government for thirty-five years. As the international human rights group Cultural Survival notes, “For 3,000 years, Indigenous people have plied their dugout canoes up and down the Patuca River, the central artery of Honduras’ vast Moskitia lowland rainforest. On its rich floodplain they grow cocoa, oranges, rice, beans, cassava, and other crops for subsistence and sale, and its fish provide a vital source of protein. ‘The river is our life,’ says Lorenzo Tinglas, president of the Tawahka people’s governing council. ‘Any threat to the Patuca is a threat to four Indigenous Peoples—the Tawahka, Pech, Miskitu, and Garifuna—and we will fight to the death to protect it.’”

Danielle DeLuca writes in Cultural Survival Quarterly: “Despite years of protest from local Indigenous Peoples and international environmental groups, in January 2011 the Honduras government signed a contract with a Chinese company to start construction on the first of three dams that would have many irreversible consequences in the Moskitia, Central America’s most biologically diverse tropical wilderness…[C]ommunities are fighting for their futures as dam construction gets underway.”

There are plenty more examples: The 1980s militant resistance of the Bougainville islanders to a copper and gold mine owned by industrial giant Rio Tinto-Zinc and the Papua New Guinean government, that successfully closed the mine. This struggle was popularized in the documentary film The Coconut Revolution, and is fascinating not only because the small Bougainville population took on the Papua New Guinea Army and won, using resources like coconut oil for diesel fuel, but for its tidy representation of every facet of the global situation: their landbase was being destroyed for a limited resource they themselves had no use for, their water was being poisoned and they had nowhere else to go. Unfortunately, commodity prices are pressuring the mine to reopen.

Endnotes

http://mendnigerdelta.com/ Accessed 3/7/12.

McBay, Aric; Keith, Lierre; and Jensen, Derrick. (2011.) Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. New York, NY.: Seven Stories Press. 113-192.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aung_San_Suu_Kyi Accessed 3/2/12.

Another story of women’s important role in armed struggle is the Nepalese People’s Liberation Army, “Maoist guerrillas, who were waging an underground war to abolish monarchy in Nepal and promulgate a constitution of, by and for the people.” http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106139 Accessed 2/21/12. Thanks to Premadasi Amada for bringing this to my attention.

Mirante, Edith T. (1993.) Burma’s Ethnic Minority Women: From Abuse to Resistance. In: Miller, Marc S., editor. (1993.) State of the Peoples: a global human rights report on societies in danger. Boston, MA.: Beacon Press. 7-14.

Mirante, Edith T. (1993.) Burmese Looking Glass: A Human Rights Adventure and a Jungle Revolution. New York, NY.: Atlantic Monthly Press.

http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/first-nations-north-south-and-interior-stand-against-oil-tankers Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/2012/02/13/nation-building-how-enbridge-pipeline-issue-unified-northern-bc Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G5KtqPSW8Q Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/sustainability/2012/01/17/enbridge-northern-gateway-joint-review-panel-smithers-finds-100-opposition Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/enbridge-pipeline-first-nation-says-an-oil-spill-is-inevitable-and-would-wipe-out-their-1627405.htm Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/2012/02/13/nation-building-how-enbridge-pipeline-issue-unified-northern-bc Accessed 3/3/12.

http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/honduras-dont-dam-patuca-river Accessed 7/8/11.

http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/pursuit-autonomy-indigenous-peoples-oppose-dam-construction Accessed 3/4/12.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDpvxQe_Jhg&feature=gv Accessed 3/4/12. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bougainville_%E2%80%93_Our_Island_Our_Fight Accessed 3/4/12.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/bougainville-president-backs-panguna-mine/story-e6frg8zx-1226058523408 Accessed 2/19/12.

http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2010/s2900363.htm Accessed 2/19/12.

http://www.mpi.org.au/1new-page.aspx Accessed 2/19/12. See also: http://www.mpi.org.au/about-mpi.aspx