An article from Do or Die Issue 10. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 1-101.
Just as counter-cultures must open up space for (r)evolution to grow we must also open up time. The life support systems of the earth are under unprecedented attack. Biological meltdown is accelerating. (R)evolution takes decades to mature. Unless force is used on the margins of the global society to protect the most important biological areas we may simply not have enough time. The last tribal examples of anarchy, from whom we can learn a lot, could be wiped out within decades if not militantly defended. 'Thumb in the Dam' struggles aim to protect ecological diversity understanding that this civilisation WILL be terminated, by either the unlikely possibility of global (r)evolution or the certainty of industrial collapse.
"What would the world be, once bereft,
Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet"
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, Inversnaid.
"Our job is to save the evolutionary building blocks and to make sure there are grizzly bears and great blue whales and rainforests and redwoods somewhere, so that in the final thrashing of the industrial monster everything else that's good on this planet isn't destroyed."
- Dave Foreman, Earth First! co-founder.
The aim of this piece is to help prioritise and direct our action and organising. However our absolute action priorities are not left to us to determine. They have been decided for us by the point in history in which we live. For this reason I have made this task section considerably longer than the others.
Industrial Capitalism has continued civilisation's age-old attack on the wild and free - resulting in unparalleled biological and cultural meltdown. The decimation of wild peoples (cultural meltdown) and the devastation of ecological diversity (biological meltdown) are now reaching truly apocalyptic proportions.
"Indeed, all the indications are that we are standing at the opening phase of a mass extinction event that will be comparable in scale to the five great extinction episodes that have taken place in the history of life on earth, the most recent being the loss of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Impending extinction rates are at least four orders of magnitude than is found in the fossil record. That means in the order of 10,000 times greater, a frightening prospect to say the least. If allowed to continue the current extinction episode, could well eliminate between a third and two thirds of all species... [within this] century."
One third to two thirds of all species on earth - GONE! Stop a while, attempt to conceptualise the magnitude of the moment.
Nothing in the history of humankind has prepared us for this appalling event, but OUR generation will probably witness the disappearance of a third to one half of the earth's rich and subtle forms of life, which have been evolving for billions of years. In the early 1990s Michael Soule, founder of the Society for Conservation Biology, made this chilling assessment of the status of the earth's biosphere:
"For the first time in hundreds of million of years significant evolutionary change in most higher organisms is coming to a screeching halt... Vertebrate evolution may be at an end." Soule is saying that humanity's disruption of the environment has been so systematic and profound that it has halted the same natural processes that have brought everything we know into existence, including our very bodies and minds.
It is tempting when facing this scale of doom to think of humanity as an intrinsically ecocidal organism. A pox on the earth. This however lets us and our society - city culture - off the hook.
Numerous cultures have developed a sustainable and harmonious relationship with their surroundings: the Mbuti, the Penan, the !Kung, to name but a few. These societies chose not to dominate nature. In the larger history of humankind, they are the norm and we are the exception.
On civilisation's periphery, some of these wild peoples live on. Their very existence is a serious threat to city culture; simply in the fact that they show that there is a reality outside our world. Defending their autonomy and the land of which they are a part, they are the best protectors of some of the earth's wildest places.
Just as wild nature is being denuded and domesticated, so too is wild humanity. This century will probably be the last for many cultures ages old. Civilisation aims to wipe out their other worlds. Men of money and men of god conspire. If these tribes are wiped out by our culture, it will be the first time in millions of years that no human communities have lived in harmony with nature.
Guns, gold, god and diseases could make Homo Sapiens extinct in our lifetime. For when the last gatherer-hunters are hunted down, all that will be left of humanity will be in the entrails of Leviathan - having the potential for life but unliving.
'Land, the mother earth from which we are born and to which we die, on whom our lives depend, through which our spiritual ways remain intact. To impose changes on this ancient order would serve to destroy our dignity and identity as Indigenous people. Without the land, the peoples are lost. Without the Indigenous peoples the land is lost.' - Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, 1987
It is in this context that we must see ourselves. Not simply as rebels against empire, like so many before us, but rebels at the most critical moment in human history.
Our generation will likely see the decimation of remaining ecological/anarchic cultures and the haemorrhaging of the earth's life support systems. As I outlined in Task I reformist strategies are irrelevant but (r)evolution is not only unlikely but also takes time. This has often been acknowledged by radicals in the past. Emma Goldman in her last years wrote that she believed anarchy was too huge an idea for her age to move to in one step. She looked to future generations, seeing in them hope for the spring. Her feelings echo that of many over the aeons. Looking back, an example arises from the ashes and war cries of arson and insurrection in early 19th century England. One rebel anthem sung with gusto at the time resonates.
"A hundred years, a thousand years,
We're marching on the road.
The going isn't easy yet,
We've got a heavy load.
The way is blind with blood and sweat,
And death sings in our ears.
But time is marching on our side.
We will defeat the years." 
They fought, but like many before and after, failed to get to the promised land. Yet they took solace in believing their path was right and others would follow, reaching where they had not. Their belief in an almost endless future of possibility, in the unswerving progressive march of humanity through and with time gave hope to the weary.
We no longer have that luxury.
PULLOUT: It is in this context that we must see ourselves. Not simply as rebels against empire, like so many before us, but rebels at the most critical moment in human history.
Today time is not marching on our side, but against us. We must fight all the faster. We cannot pass the gauntlet of defending the wild to unborn generations. It is that wildness and those unborn generations that are in peril today. What we do in our lives, in this moment, is of utmost importance. For no other generation has the weight of the future rested so heavily on the present.
Given the urgency, the pain, the horror and the magnitude of the unfolding catastrophe, the questions what to do and where to start are daunting ones. Thankfully the way has been charted in part by the last 25 years of radical ecological action. 'Thumb in the Dam' struggles have been at the very centre of our activity.
How can one best defend wild areas and cultures? In the absence of significant (r)evolution the answer lies in a combination of conservation, direct action and the strengthening of ecological cultures. Groups such as the Wildlife Trusts (in Britain) and Conservation International (globally) have adopted land purchase as their main tactic. This has its place but the times call for a more militant attitude. Most of us have little money to protect habitats by buying them up, while 'protected' areas are often far from safe. Direct action on the other hand puts the costs onto those who attack nature not those who wish to defend it. Trashing a digger poised to level a copse feels like a far more authentic reaction to ecological destruction than any amount of paper shuffling. For most of us, well targeted direct action is the most effective and efficient use of our limited time and resources. In the early '80s the failure of reform environmentalism made this clear and the radical ecological resistance was born. Militant direct action by warrior societies putting the earth first!
What objectives and strategy can we base our actions around, given the vast scale of the attack and the minute scale of the resistance? This Task section will hopefully give at least a partial answer.
Though it was from an understanding of the global ecological crisis that our movement was born it was in local ecological land struggles that our movement grew. As stated earlier, we can take pride in the beauty and vitality of habitats throughout Britain that are alive today because of our resistance to infrastructure growth (roads), resource extraction (quarrying, opencast coal mining, peat digging, timber cutting) and city expansion (house building).
These struggles have changed forever all of us who have taken part in them. They have connected us to the earth in a deeply emotional and meaningful way. Exhilaration, fear, empowerment, true human communication, anger, love, homes and a feeling of belonging in both communities and the land; these are just some of what we have been given by these struggles. I emphasise this so that what I say next is not taken as a disavowal of British local ecological land struggles.
To those of us brought up in Britain's woodlands, copses, downland and dales these habitats have an immense importance - reaching deep into our soul. However, from a global perspective how important are these ecologies given the accelerating biological meltdown?
We must direct our action where it will have most effect. Trauma medics use triage to sort casualties according to priority - which lives are most threatened, which lives are most saveable. In this way they can put their resources where they will have most effect. What we need then is a form of global habitat triage for the biological casualties of civilisations war on the wild. Thankfully in the last 15 years such a system has taken shape, in the form of the Hotspot Theory.
Hotspot Theory was first conceived by British ecologist Norman Myers. First, it makes the task of defending biodiversity more 'approachable' by demonstrating that we can conserve a major share of terrestrial biodiversity in a relatively small portion of the planet. Secondly, it demonstrates specifically where these areas are located, and why they are so important, entering into considerable detail on what each of them contains. Third, it elucidates the different threats faced by each of the hotspots.
The Hotspots: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Eco-Regions
Myers' Hotspot priority system uses vascular plants as the main determinant, given that plants are the primary fixers of energy from the sun and are necessary for the survival of most other organisms.
Hotspots are defined with two criteria. First, biological diversity. Secondly, degree of threat. A minimum of 0.5% of total global vascular plant diversity endemic to the area in question is the primary cut-off point for inclusion on the hotspot list. The theory uses the most current estimate of vascular plants as 300,000 i.e. the cut off is an area must have 1,500 endemic vascular plants within its borders. Also bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian diversity is taken into account, in that order of importance. The second criteria, degree of threat, has a cut off measure that is; a hotspot should have 25% or less of its original primary natural vegetation cover remaining intact.
Hotspot analysis carried out between 1996-1998 resulted in a list of 25 hotspots and two exceptional mini-hotspots (the Galapagos and Juan Fernadez islands). The hotspots are:
Tropical Andes, Meso-america, Caribbean, Choco Darien, Atlantic Forest Region, Brazilian Cerrado, Central Chile, California Floristic Province, Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands, Easter Arc Mountains, Cape Floristic Province, Succulent Karoo, Guinean forests of West Africa, Mediterranean Basin, Caucasus, Sundaland, Wallacea, Philippines, Indo-Burma, Mountains of Central China, Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Polynesia, South West Australia.
Cumulatively, these 25 areas plus the mini-hotspots have almost 88% of their original area destroyed or denuded with only 12.28% remaining intact. This intact percentage amounts to just 1.44% of the land surface of the planet - a little smaller than the EU!!!
A staggering 131,399 vascular plants are endemic to the hotspots representing 43.8% of all plants on earth. Adding in estimations of non-endemic plant species found within the hotspots brings us to an even larger figure.
"At least 65.7% and more likely 70% or more of all vascular plants occur within the 1.44% of earth's land surface occupied by the hotspots."
This indicates a vast percentage of all life in other species groups - mammals, avi-fauna etc. In fact 35.5% of the global total of non-fish vertebrates are endemic to the hotspots. Once again, adding in estimations of non-endemic non-fish vertebrates, we come to a figure of at least 62%. Maybe perhaps 70% or more of all non-fish vertebrates occurring in the hotspots. As the authors of Hotspots say themselves:
"If 60% or more of all terrestrial biodiversity occurs in the most threatened 1.44% of the land surface of the planet, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these areas deserve a lion's share of our attention over the next few decades. Indeed, if... we are at risk of losing one third to two thirds of all species within the foreseeable future, and if almost two thirds of at least the terrestrial species are in the hotspots, then it seems fairly obvious that we may make a major dent in the entire endangered species/mass extinction problem by placing very heavy emphasis on the hotspots."
This analysis is immensely useful, and has been refined further. Lots of number crunching later leads to a 'top 9' Hotspot list:
Tropical Andes, Sundaland, Meso-America, Indo-Burma, Caribbean, Atlantic Forest Region of Brazil, Madagascar, Mediterranean Basin & Choco-Darien (Western Ecuador).
These 9 areas account for 29.5% of all vascular plants and 24.9% of non-fish vertebrates. This in just 0.73% of the planet's land surface - around half of the size of the EU!!
Further analysis on threat highlights three hotspots; the hottest of the hot. They are:
The Caribbean, the Philippines and Madagascar.
If this theory is correct, and there is every reason to think it is, some solid conclusions can be drawn:
These conclusions combined with a sensible analysis of our powers (as radical ecologists primarily in Northern Europe) begin to give us answers to the urgent question posed earlier. Where to start?
A hierarchy of global priority setting can follow the pattern: global > regional > national > local > specific sites. Obviously, given our location and limited powers, the priorities set by such a system cannot be transferred immediately to a list of practically realisable objectives. Beyond this we can also set a hierarchy of priorities for local habitat defence here on our island and its environs - understanding all the time these struggles' largely peripheral role in the global direct defence of diversity. For now I will talk of the global terrain. What follows is a hierarchy of top priorities for terrestrial habitat defence set in light of the hotspot theory.
IMAGE: 70% of the Philippines' 500 species of endemic land vertebrates are endangered. Only quick, strong action will save species like the kitten-sized Tarsier.
At the moment the three hottest are undeniably the global priority areas for defence. Unfortunately, facing reality we can have very little direct effect on these areas - at present. This is likely to remain so for the medium term at least. Let's not fool ourselves. We often ignore threatened habitats in Britain because they're more than a few hours drive from an 'activist centre'. The Caribbean, Madagascar and the Philippines. I don't see any of our ropey vans getting there any time soon. However, let's look at them one by one.
Madagascar: This amazing island has been at the centre of global conservation concern for decades. A number of British companies are involved in trashing it, our old friends RTZ for example. Actions against them would be very, very good. It is here, if anywhere, that the global conservation NGOs have some chance of using big money to big effect. Like it or not, they are probably the islands greatest hope. Many of them are using the Hotspot Theory to set their priorities so their targeting of Madagascar is increasing.
Philippines: Of the three hottest hotspots it is in the Philippines that we have most extensive contacts. A number of EF! groups are active. Growing out of anarcho-punk there is a small but growing active eco-minded anarchist scene. Peoples' Global Action (PGA) called international days saw sizeable mobilisations, and anti-GM direct action by peasants is on the up. A number of communities are resisting the logging and mining that is destroying their areas. A remnant of the original gatherer-hunter population of the Philippines survives. We need to talk more to Filipino groups to find out how we can best help. Solidarity actions, communication and funds should all be disproportionately channelled their way. UK based companies are active and possibilities for joint action should be pursued. While this responsibility belongs to us all, some people from our scene need to take on acting as primary intermediaries and push this forward - catalysing communication and action.
The Caribbean: To put it lightly, many more people in Britain have links with the Caribbean than with either the Philippines or Madagascar! At a guess I'd say that of the Majority World hotspots it is with the Caribbean that Britain has most personal (rather than corporate) connections. Unfortunately environmentalism, for reasons around race and class, is almost devoid of British Afro-Caribbean involvement. Thus ecological struggles are happening in the region but are largely off our radar.
While steps must be taken to remedy this, our potential as a (predominantly white) movement to support this region is much smaller than that of the Afro-Caribbean communities. Some within these communities are working on the issue. It'll be nothing to do with us if any major expansion of activity happens, so there is little point going into detail here. One thing is worth emphasising though. Mobilisation by Afro-Caribbean groups has the potential to be the most meaningful support work done by Brits for any of the Majority World hotspots. Given the regions position as one of the three hottest hotspots it could be the most globally important eco-action carried out here. We have reason to hope for such a situation, and corporate ravagers of the Caribbean based in Britain have reason to fear it.
One of our main entry points for far off lands - anarchism - is little use to us in the Caribbean where anarchist groups are pretty much non-existent. Cuba is the only island where a sizeable movement ever took root, and no organisations survive now thanks to Castro's social weeding.
The Caribbean is one of only two hotspots whose area is partly within the US. Unsurprisingly we know more people in Florida than say, Haiti. EF!ers are active in Florida and good solidarity actions for them would be great.
Moving down one level of priority to the top nine we find similar patterns to the top three. These regions are largely out of our direct reach. We can do little at the moment bar actively supporting radical ecological influenced groups in these areas. Groups in the top nine should be given disproportionate support and direct aid.
Covering less than 1% of global land surface, mostly in 'Majority World' locations, the top nine are of immense importance. In this context even relatively minor conservation programs are worth supporting - physically and financially.
Of course this kind of thing is all well and good but we've rarely shown ourselves to be particularly brilliant at sustained international solidarity. We need to build a strategy based solidly on our strengths. Stopping developments. Fucking shit up. Blockades. Sabotage. Land occupations. Broken windows and crippled corporate confidence. To be really effective we need terrains of struggle which are both easily reachable and globally important.
Thankfully one of the top 9 is within our reach - the Mediterranean Basin. The Med is both amazingly biodiverse and under serious threat. Due to this hotspot's direct relevance to us and our activity I have re-printed here an essay by N. Myers and R. M. Cowling from the Hotspots book. I have shortened it due to space constraints. It's more eloquent than I, so read it and then return to me.
The Mediterranean Hotspot
This huge hotspot stretches from Portugal to Jordan and from the Canary Islands to Northern Italy. It encompasses all of Cyprus and over 90% of Greece, Lebanon, and Portugal, though less than 10% of France, Algeria, and Libya. In Spain, 6,000 of the country's 7,500 plant species occur within the Mediterranean climate zone, in Israel 1,500 out of 2,200, and in Morocco 3,800 out of 4,200.
The flora of the Mediterranean Basin includes 25,000 species of vascular plants, 13,000 of which are endemic. This figure is very high when compared to the 6,000 species of non-Mediterranean Europe in an area nearly four times as large. It is also the third highest of all the hotspots, being surpassed only by the Tropical Andes and Sundaland.
The Basin's violent geographical history has produced an unusual geographical and topographical diversity, with high mountain ranges, peninsulas, and one of the largest archipelagos in the world. The Mediterranean Sea includes several hundred islands.
In mammal and bird faunas endemism is moderate, at 25% and 14%. The reptile and amphibian faunas on the other hand, have levels of endemism of 61% and 52%.
The typical and most widespread vegetation type is a hard-leafed shrubland dominated by evergreens. Shrublands, including maquis and the aromatic, soft-leafed and drought deciduous phrygana, have persisted throughout the Quaternary in the semiarid, lowland, and coastal regions of the Basin. However, prior to the onset of significant human impact, which started some 8,000 years ago, most of the Mediterranean Basin was covered by some form of forest, including evergreen oak forests, deciduous forests, and conifer forests.
Endemics are concentrated on islands, peninsulas, rocky cliffs, and mountain peaks. The principal foci in the Mediterranean are 10 smaller 'mini-hotspots within the larger hotspot'. These 10 are areas in which unusual amounts of original vegetation still survive and where many of the endemic species hang on, albeit several threatened. These areas cover about 15% of the Basin's total area, yet account for almost 4,800 endemics, or 37% of the total tally. Clearly, these are priority sites for conservation of these plant components of Mediterranean biodiversity.
Diversity and endemism among Mediterranean Basin vertebrates is much lower than for plants. The present number of land mammals in the region is about 184, of which 46 (25%) are endemic. During the Holocene, but especially in the last few thousand years, many of the larger mammals became extinct because of aridification, habitat alteration, and persecution. The earliest victims included some spectacular species like dwarf hippopotamuses and elephants on some islands. These were followed by other large mammals, including the African elephant, wild ass, scimitar-horned oryx, northern hartebeest, and lion. Still others are so severely depleted as to be on the verge of extinction, among them the brown bear, leopard, and Mediterranean monk seal.
The region's avifauna includes about 345 breeding species of which only 47 (14%) are endemic. A few small portions of the Mediterranean Basin also appear as priorities in BirdLife International's recent global analysis of Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs). These are Cyprus, with two bird species confined to that EBA, and Madeira and the Canary Islands, with 9 species, 8 of them confined to the EBA, and one species, the Canary Islands oystercatcher already extinct.
Endemism is much better developed in reptiles, with 179 species, 110 (61%) of which are endemic, and amphibians, with 62 species, 32 (52%) of which are endemic. Reptile diversity is highest in the drier, eastern and North African parts of the Basin, whereas the opposite is true of amphibians. For both groups, the Mediterranean Basin is an important centre of diversity and endemism for some families.
As is the case for the other hotspots, much less is known about the invertebrate fauna. One of the exceptions are the insect pollinators, which have been relatively well-studied as a group. The dominant pollinators are bees, with an estimated 3,000 - 4,000 species.
The Mediterranean Basin is characterised more by its plants than its animals. Among the interesting plants are the cedars: one endemic to Cyprus and represented only by a very small relic population; another, fairly abundant in Morocco and Algeria but experiencing very rapid depletion by timber cutters; and a third, the famous Lebanon cedar, mentioned below, hangs on in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. Another interesting endemic flagship species is the only palm tree native to the Basin, found exclusively in a tiny corner of Crete and on the Datca peninsula in Turkey, where it is threatened by tourist development.
A number of animals qualify as flagship species as well. Particularly noteworthy are the 'Mediterranean' tortoises, four in number. Among the endemic mammals, there are several standouts as well. The Barbary macaque is now found in relatively small and disjunct habitat pockets in the Rif, Loyen, and Haut Atlas mountain ranges of Morocco, and in the Chiffa, Petite, and Grande Kabylies mountain ranges of Algeria, with a small, well-known population on Gibraltar that lives in a free-ranging state but is provisioned. It is believed that the Gibraltar macaques were present since early times, but have been sporadically replenished by imports from Morocco. The Gibraltar macaques are now the only free-living nonhuman primates in Europe.
The Barbary deer is confined to a small area of cork oak and pine forest on the border between Algeria and Tunisia. The population is down to only a few hundred individuals, including those in captivity in both countries. The Corsican red deer is considered extinct in Corsica, and is now found only in three mountainous areas near the southern coast of Sardinia. The total population is only about 200.
The Mediterranean monk seal, though primarily a marine species, does use coastal beaches and has long been an important symbol. It was once distributed throughout the Mediterranean, the Northwest coast of Africa, and the Black Sea. Today, the approximate 400 animals that still survive have been pushed to isolated spots in Turkey, Greece, the Atlantic coast of Morocco, Mauritania, Sardinia, Algeria, and Madeira.
Remnant populations of other once wide-ranging mammals include the brown bear, which still hangs on in the mountains of Spain, France, Italy, Greece and some of the Balkan countries, and two subspecies of the leopard, the North African leopard and the Anatolian leopard, both of which are considered critically endangered.
IMAGE: The Gibraltar macaques are now the only free-living nonhuman primates in Europe.
The present human population of the Mediterranean Basin is some 300 million, although population pressures have existed for millennia. Indeed, there is no other region in the world where the development of ecosystems has been intimately associated with human social systems for so long. The region has been home to sizeable human settlements for well over two millennia and significant human activity for another six millennia (there was a large town in Turkey 8,400 years ago!). In Roman times, the more fertile parts of Tunisia and Algeria - Rome's 'bread basket' - were laid waste through agricultural overuse, and the historian Pliny warned the ancient Greeks of the damages of deforestation. In Lebanon, the uplands were once covered with stately cedars whose height, strength, and utility became legendary throughout the Old World. Felling of the trees started as early as 3,000 BC, when the Phoenicians began a lucrative trade in cedarwood with the Egyptian Pharaohs and King Solomon, among others. Now the Lebanon highlands have lost most of their trees, and the cedar is a threatened species.
The impact of this long history of human assault on Mediterranean ecosystems has been huge. Perhaps the most severe transformation has been the conversion of forests, especially primeval deciduous forests, to agricultural lands, evergreen woodlands, and maquis. The first significant deforestation began as early as 8,000 BC, and increased dramatically at the end of the Neolithic. Each wave of civilisation created new pressures on the forests, culminating in the rapid human population growth and widespread increase in mechanised agriculture of the present century.
A crucial factor is fragmentation. The original vegetation has been reduced to only small patches today. This is hardly more than to be expected of a region that has been heavily settled for over 2,000 years, longer than any other hotspot. While some vegetation fragments still total several hundred square kilometres, many are less than 100 km2, a few are 10km2 at most, and one or two are down to a final handful of hectares. Equally significant are many of the 13,000 endemic plant species, which are 'narrow endemic' confined to unusually small areas. This makes them exceptionally susceptible to threats such as expanding farming, overgrazing by domestic stock, and spread of urban communities. Indeed, probably more species have already been driven to extinction in this hotspot than in virtually any other, some species having been eliminated many centuries ago, totalling probably hundreds of plant species alone. As for threatened species, the total for plants is put as high as one half of the entire flora.
The outlook is not propitious, if only by reason of the surge in human numbers and their demands. While one can readily point a finger at population growth in non-European countries it is Northern Europeans that generate most of the tourist influx to the shores of the Mediterranean as the biggest large-scale tourist attraction in the world. There are around 100 million visitors per year already, scheduled to become twice as many within another two decades. The tourism sector is flourishing and expanding its disruptive impact in Spain, France, Italy and Greece, and increasingly in Turkey, Cyprus, Tunisia and Morocco. Through the spread of hotels and associated buildings, the construction of roads and other infrastructure - plus the impact of millions of feet trampling through fragile environments every day - tourism has caused exceptional damage. It is now the most serious threat to seminatural areas in Western and Southern Turkey, and in Cyprus, Tunisia, and Morocco, a list that may shortly be joined by Greece among several other countries, particularly as concerns the Mediterranean islands such as the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Crete, and the Canary and Madeira islands.
There are also growing threats from what has always been the number one competitor for natural environments, agriculture. More people generally means more farmland to support them. The main agricultural threat today lies within food demands from people in far-off lands. Consumers of Northern Europe are becoming accustomed to strawberries and carnations right around the year, and during October-March they turn to warmer climates for supplies. Thus the speedy expansion of horticulture in many parts of the Basin; the market is already huge.
As for population growth, the countries of the Southern and Eastern seaboards are projected to increase their numbers by 54% as early as the year 2025. Partly because of population pressures, environments are declining apace. Morocco, Tunisia and Libya each are losing around 1,000 km2 to desertification every year, and Algeria still more.
All of these factors contribute to making the Mediterranean Basin one of the hottest of the hotspots; indeed in many ways it is hyper-hot, scoring very high in the fundamental criteria that we use to define hotspots. It is exceptionally rich in diversity, especially plants, and second in the world in plant endemism. In is also highly threatened, and in fact has the lowest percentage of natural vegetation remaining in pristine condition of any hotspot.
Today, most countries of the Basin are planning substantial increases in their protected area systems. But due to the demands of agriculture and other activities that absorb large tracts of natural environment, many protected areas are too small to meet the imperatives of 'island biogeography'. Moreover, many protected areas suffer some effects of pollution arising far outside their specific locations. Some of them are short of water after feeder rivers rising in distant watersheds have been diverted for industry, agriculture, and urban communities. All of these problems are likely to become more pronounced as human numbers and human demands keep on growing - and that is without counting the rigors of enhanced U-VB radiation through the depleted ozone layer and the onset of global warming with its many dislocations of plant communities. In a greenhouse-affected world, plant and animal communities will try to follow warm-temperature zones as these head northwards. Those in Northern Italy will have to try to migrate over the Alps and those in Eastern Spain over the Pyrenees, while those in Western Spain and Portugal will find themselves migrating into the Bay of Biscany.
IMAGE: The Gomeran laurel forest in the Canaries is the one surviving remnant of an ecology which once covered much of Mediterranean Europe.
I read that essay and was struck by its importance for us. Travel becomes ever cheaper. Less than 24 hours away on a coach is one of the nine most important terrestrial eco-regions on earth. Victories and defeats in this arena are of the utmost global importance. The same cannot be said of many of the places we have fought for in the last 10 years. As I said earlier, I do not mean to lessen the importance of those campaigns, and our many victories, only to point to the reality that they mean little when it comes to confronting global biological meltdown. For a whole host of reasons they should continue, but it's time for us to join other battles.
Looking at the map of the Med we can quickly come to some obvious basis for our action. Though there are conservationists in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Libya, Egypt, Jordon and Syria, there are no radical ecological groups to link up with. Israel is the only country in the Near East with a listed EF! contact. Ecological struggles are of course going on but are largely off our radar. Work should be carried out to rectify this situation, but to be brutally honest I don't fancy doing direct action in Morroco much. Ask the Saharawians about it! We should support struggling communities and aid conservationists if and where we can in North Africa and the Near East - but let's face it we're not likely to very much. However, unlike other hotspots we can get stuck in to a large part of the area relatively easily. We have contacts in the European half of the Mediterranean hotspot and getting there is a cinch.
It is within this area that some of Europe's most militant ecological action has been taken. In fact at the time of writing there are eco-saboteurs serving time in Spain (for fucking up construction of the Itoiz Dam), Italy (for trashing a high speed rail construction site in the Sosa Valley) and Greece (attempting to bomb the Ministry of Industry in solidarity with communities fighting mega-port construction). The struggles these prisoners are part of are all being fought by anarchist/radical ecological groups our scene is in direct contact with, and there are many more.
Looking for allies lets take a trip around the European section of the basin anti-clockwise. We start with Greece. Much of it is a red alert area and has a sizeable and very militant anarchist scene with a slowly increasing green hue. Albania has no established radical ecological groups. There are smatterings of anarchos and radical eco-types throughout the ex-Yugoslav republics.
Italy's anarchists are pretty full on and increasingly engaged in some ecological resistance (The Italian-French Maritime Alps red alert area is relatively near Turin's anarchists and the area someone is in jail for defending). Southern France also has many active groups from GM trashing Confederation Paysanne to anarchists, with the French Pyrenees being the site of the ten year resistance to the road through the Valle d'Aspe.
On the other side of the Pyrenees in Spain there are large anarchist groups and at present probably the biggest squatting movement in Europe. The Basque country (which borders the hotspot) has a history of mass struggles against mining, dams etc. with even ETA getting in on the act. The Spanish section of the Rif-Betique red alert area has become home for a sizeable British punk and crusty exile community. The Canaries red alert area (which despite being off Western Sahara is part of Spain) has a few environmental groups and like the Basque country has a (much smaller) nationalist movement with ecological tendencies.
Portugal has a number of together eco influenced anarchist groups and significant clashes continue between it's peasant past and the onslaught of modernity.
Over the last few years many of our circle have increasingly turned to the continent for adventure and action. The relatively low level of struggle in Britain since the end of the anti-road period, the rising [and now setting?] sun of the Spanish squatting scene, the strength of sterling, riot tourism, cheaper travel and the warmer climate of parts of Europe have all been factors. In the '90s the transient tribes of anti-road activists moved around Britain with little concern for distance. Now a similar situation is evolving for which the terrain is the whole of Europe.
This situation will expand significantly over the next decade. For while some of its causes have their origin in Britain's present, others arise from the increasingly unified nature of Europe's planned future.
While this causes some problems for sustaining local organising in Britain it also opens up amazing opportunities.
Of the ten red alert areas, the ones nearest Mediterranean activist hubs are the Spanish section of the Rif-Betique, the Maritime Alps of the French/Italian border and southern/central Greece. Campaigns and targets in these areas should be relatively easy to find out about. If we in Britain added our weight to our comrades in these countries and convinced other Northern Europeans to do so, we would be moving towards serious defence of a globally important area - making an actual impact on biological meltdown.
Experience and contacts made through struggle in these 'easily accessible' three areas will chart the way forward towards action in other parts of the Med. A full scale migration is not needed. Some of our circle are planning to move to the Med's warmer climate. Many others are already wintering or taking small sojourns there. Significant contact has been made with groups in these areas. All that is needed is that this pre-existing process be consciously and collectively shaped to the immediate goal at hand.
It is important in some areas to join local campaigns. In others, covert holiday sabotage is more in order. The latter is really just a call for the European adoption of one of North American EF!'s longest running tactics - roving monkeywrenching. With the consolidation of the European super-state, travelling across borders to trek into and defend wildness seems ever more like crossing US states to defend wilderness. A practice, despite the distance, our North American friends think little of.
Some (Don't) Like it Hot(spot)
While this section leans heavily on the hotspot theory, for good reasons, it is merely a system of global priority setting and thus should not become ideology. At base the very utility of such a project can be questioned - is global (rather than local) thinking possible or even desirable? Should our objectives be taken from cold, scientific number crunching? Unfortunately I think our time and geographic location force us to such analysis if we are to have an impact on biological meltdown. Other biological priority systems are out there but if we accept the need to go in this direction I reckon the hotspot theory offers the best route.
On a similar tack we should not see species diversity as a measure of the 'value' of specific ecologies. The basic tenant of biocentric thought is after all that wild nature has value in and of itself. The kind of discourse that leads to telling phrases like 'species richness' is poor substitute for a real connection with nature. In relation to Red Alert areas a true holistic/whole ecosystem approach is essential. There is after all little point protecting a habitat if, outside the protected area, the river that 'services' it is dammed or re-directed.
There is one deep worry I have about the hotspot theory - maybe it's simply too hopeful.
It concentrates on those highly diverse areas at imminent high risk of desolation. It's global > regional > local priorities are Hottest of the Hot > Individual hotspots > Red Alert areas within the Hotspots.
By concentrating on those precious areas most at threat we are possibly concentrating our energy in those areas in which we are most likely to lose.
This is a dilemma worth pointing to because other strategies are available - though ones with more depressing conclusions. This then swings on one's calculation of the collective power that ecological direct action, conservation biology, enlightened bureaucrats (ha!) and popular movements can muster. I choose to believe that we can have some serious impact in the hotspots, but it would not be exactly illogical to think otherwise. Many of the Red Alert areas specifically and some of the hotspots in general are probably doomed. It might make more strategic sense to concentrate instead on the less devastated/domesticated areas (the big rainforest wildernesses not included in the hotspots) making links and preparing for battles to come. This 'Long War' strategy of concentrating on the 'cold spots' (Amazon, Congo, New Guinea) is attractive but it does take as a given that a vast % of global biodiversity is unsaveable. I choose more hope than that - for now. A reappraisal of the situation should happen in maybe 10-15 years. If our trouble-making and conservationist money hasn't resulted in victory in at least some hotspots then a switch of strategy would seem in order.
I am not going to go into much detail about the remaining hotspots; it would take too much space and be rather repetitive.
Of the 15, all bar three are in the Majority World; countries at the moment largely out of our direct reach. As stated earlier, active ecologically minded groups in the hotpots should be given priority when it comes to support actions and funding. We do, in fact, have contacts in most of these areas. Some EF!ers do conservation work abroad and it would make sense that it is concentrated within the hotspots. If we can be of any practical help to efforts in these areas we should muck in wholeheartedly.
Three of the remaining 15 stand out, for us, if only because they're predominately English speaking and 'Western' - South West Australia, New Zealand and the Californian Floristic Province. In all three areas serious land battles are being fought and we have quite extensive contacts.
Aoterea: In Aoterea (New Zealand) there is a large indigenous resistance movement keyed into the PGA. There is also a sprinkling of anarchos and radical eco-types.
South West Australia: This region has a history of aboriginal land defence stretching from the invasion to the present day. The last three decades have also seen significant struggles by white radical environmentalists, defectors to the side of the indigenous and the land. When EF! first came to Britain, Australia was probably at the forefront of ecological resistance in the 'West'. Large-scale actions against the importation of tropical timber were carried out hand-in-hand with direct land defence. Over the last decade this scene has shrunk but is still never the less both active and pregnant with great possibility. Australians have been responsible for some of the largest summit actions of the Global Resistance Period. It has the normal assortment of anarchists - many being very eco in word and deed.
For obvious reasons there is a reasonable amount of three way traffic between Britain, Australia and New Zealand. While these areas are not as important or threatened as some other hotspots higher up the global diversity/threat hierarchy, for cultural reasons it is simply more likely that links will continue and consolidate with these areas.
Californian Floristic Province: This hotspot is probably the one we have historically had most ties with. Though the latter '90s have seen an increasing turn towards 'Europe', in the early '90s British EF! orientated itself primarily with reference to North American EF! By the time of the birth of our movement EF! had internationalised, yet it was still very much a North American export. For this reason I will go into more detail about the only hotspot found predominantly in North America.
The Californian Floristic Province stretches along the western coast of North America, most of it within the state of California. However, it also extends north into Oregon and south into Baja California, Mexico.
Approximately 60% of California's land is included within the floristic province. The total number of plant species present is greater than that for central and northern US and the adjacent portion of Canada, an area almost ten times as large.
This rich biodiversity is seriously threatened. California is the most populous of the United States, its economy ranks among those of the world's top seven countries and it produces half of the food the US consumes. Among the main threats faced by this hotspot are urbanisation, air pollution, expansion of large scale agriculture, livestock grazing, logging, strip mining, oil extraction, road building, the spread of non-native plants, an increasing use of off-road vehicles and the suppressing of natural fires necessary for reproduction of key plant species.
In defending this region against attacks North American EF! has had some of its most memorable moments. The massive Redwood Summer campaign which led to the carbombings of EF!ers Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney. The amazing direct action victory at Warner Creek, the killing of EF!er David Chain by a logger from Pacific Lumber. Two Eugene radical eco-anarchists are serving long sentences in the region for arson attacks on an off-road vehicle showroom.
In the early '90s we did quite a few solidarity actions for our North American friends. More recently most have been for Majority World groups. Those actions should continue but we should not neglect supporting North American EF!, especially in its struggle over this immensely important hotspot. Apart from the Mediterranean Basin, this hotspot is the one people from our circles visit more than any other. Big wilderness, cheap flights and an impressive (English speaking) movement will continue to be a pull for many. What we can offer those defending this hotspot is regular communication, occasional solidarity actions and itinerant Brits. Well, it's better than a bag of beans.
IMAGE: Redwood Summer logging road blockade.
Here, I am attempting to set, using the hotspot theory and an understanding of our strengths, a hierarchy of our top global biological objectives for the next ten years.
In many ways this seems ridiculous. However, in 1992 we set ourselves the task of stopping 600 roads which were ripping through a significant proportion of Britain's most important habitats. Within five years 500 had been cancelled. I am confident that unified action can have a momentous effect. Those who believe less than I in our cumulative power should see the utility of strategising all the more clearly. Here then is what I think our top global objectives should be, in order of their importance to us.
1) Get Militant in the Med: A big push is needed to directly defend the Mediterranean Basin Hotspot. It is the only one of the 'top 9' found in the 'West' and the only hotspot to include part of Europe. Over the next few years we should consolidate links with Basin groups and start to engage directly in action within it. The Med's 10 'red alert areas' are of greatest importance. Of these the Maritime Alps, the Spanish section of the Rif-Betique and Southern and Central Greece should be our first concern. Involvement in resistance in these areas should build our ability to engage and support struggle elsewhere in the northern part of the hotspot. Within a relatively short period of time we could be involved in serious defence of a globally important area - making an actual impact on biological meltdown.
2) Uncompromising Aid for the Three Most Threatened Hotspots: The Philippines, Madagascar and the Caribbean are the priorities at the moment, yet as we are unlikely to actually get to them they are not our highest objective. However we should target solidarity and aid to radicals, resisters and conservationists in these three hotspots as a matter of urgency. Of the three it is with the Philippines that we have most extensive links - these should be consolidated. Filipino EF!ers and anarchists should be given substantial aid. [Since this was first distributed EF!ers from Leeds have formed the 'Philippine Solidarity Group', providing practical aid for EF! and indigenous groups there. This has included direct financial aid, on-the-ground solidarity, prisoner support etc.]
3) Go Wild for the 'Western' Hotspots: For various cultural and economic reasons our direct involvement with struggles is more likely in 'Western' countries than Majority World ones. The areas under occupation by the 'West' largely do not appear in the hotspot list. Apart from the Med and a small part of the Caribbean, those that do are South Western Australia, New Zealand and the Californian Floristic Province. Already existing links should be solidified, solidarity actions carried out and the steady flow of our visitors to these hotspots should continue. Just remember to wrench at least one big machine for each long-haul flight!
Beyond this we should do anything we can to assist the preservation of all hotspots, not just those mentioned above. Wild areas not included in the hotspots should of course also be defended. However if we want to have any meaningful impact on biological meltdown, as much of our activity as possible should be aimed at the hotspots in general and the above objectives in particular.
So far I have charted what I believe we should do on the global terrain. Yet most of what we have done over the last decade has been defending the land of these dear isles. I am not calling for abandonment of this struggle. It is important for both us and the ecology of Britain. It is also what we have shown ourselves to be pretty good at. Hundreds of habitats remain living due to ecological direct action. Kiss the earth and feel proud. We - among many - have done well.
Though many of us will take action in the global hotspots, few will spend most of our time there. One criticism of following a hotspot based global triage strategy is that it lacks soul. Species diversity surveys do not an ecological sensibility make! While that's true, the global crisis calls for globally important action and I believe that the hotspot theory has utility. Yet acceptance of the globally peripheral nature of British habitat defence does not extinguish our desire or duty to defend our land. An authentic land ethic must be rooted in where we are. My bioregion may be 'species poor' compared to a rainforest but I love it. It's the bracing wind on its bright hills that whisper to me to live wilder. On a totally practical level it's far easier to defend land nearby.
As I said earlier in Part One, throughout the 1993-1998 Land Struggle Period our action priorities were largely set by the Department of Transport. When we decimated the state road building program we lost a terrain of struggle that unified and strengthened us nationally. The question posed, then, is what is the greatest and most geographically spread threat to British ecology?
The tactically unfortunate answer is industrial agriculture. The 'great' thing about road building was that wherever you were in the country it produced a front to attack, land to defend. It bit into Britain's ecology in big bites. The terrible thing about industrial agriculture is that though it devours more, it does so incrementally, with small bites. Fronts rarely present themselves. The camps at Offham, The Land is Ours occupations and trespasses, and most of all the growth of anti-GM actions, are all in part attempts to bypass this impasse.
The post 1998 wave of global resistance allowed us to totally side step the question of what land to defend (of course, some camps continued but little on the previous scale). Now we are faced once again with this question. Essentially without a national programme to attack, the question divides further - at least from the perspective of strategy. There are three categories of British land habitat defence to take into consideration:
a) Bio-regional Habitat Defence. Specific local sites under threat that may not be perceived as either ecologically or strategically national priorities should none the less be defended by local groups.
b) National Co-ordinated Habitat Defence. Land deemed ecologically or strategically of prime national importance, which the movement as a whole can recognise and act on.
c) Defence of the Wild Periphery. Areas beyond the bioregions of any local groups and far from large population centres that have some character of wilderness about them.
With roads, local bio-regional habitat defence fed into national co-ordinated habitat defence. Any terrains which mirror this hugely advantageous situation should be pursued. At the moment I can see no such terrain, but let's keep a look out! I'll go through each category in order with some suggestions.
IMAGE: The Tory road building programme provided obvious national focus. The campaign against the Newbury bypass was a battle in which people from all over Britain took part.
Essentially this is a question for us as individuals, groups and hopefully eventually as local counter-cultures. We should be intimately aware of the ecologies around us. Only through a deep knowledge of, and connection with the land can we hope to defend our bio-regions from further damage. Looking at local biodiversity studies is worthwhile, but it is our feet across the landscape that is most informative. Get out into the countryside around you. Make sure you are familiar with the wildness on your doorstep. Know your land and you'll know when it's threatened.
Put yourself about in peculiar circles. Conservationists, twitchers, ramblers, insect lovers; in most areas there are a smattering of nature nerds. If you're not one, make sure you're friends with some. They'll know about the housing development that'll destroy ancient woodland or the farmer who's draining some amphibian rich marshland for subsidies. Keep your ear to the ground.
Many of our most important habitats are listed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. SSSIs are Britain's ecological backbone, but nevertheless are often threatened. Make sure to keep an eye on the ones nearby.
I am not going to go into detail about what tactics are needed in local battles. After 10 years it's pretty obvious. Community mobilising, occupations, blockades, bulldozer pledges, sabotage. Threatening the destroyers with costly chaos and giving it to them if they try it on.
IMAGE: Many targets such as the Hillgrove cat breeding farm were forced to close in a cycle of success for animal liberationists. The cycle only came to a close when the state put its full financial backing behind Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Since Newbury/Manchester there hasn't been a piece of land that we have all pulled together to defend. This has been a great shame. Together we are quite a force/farce to be reckoned with. National co-ordination has some real advantages. For a start it maintains our circle's bad reputation, which is invaluable. Countless sites have been saved with just the threat of camps and direct action. However, significant and loud struggles are needed to keep this threat potential alive.
Beyond tactical considerations, some ecosystems are simply so precious they call upon us all to cram into crummy vans, meet joyously in the mud and fuck shit up. Above all else, these moments can be bonding, inspiring and educational (when they don't go horribly wrong).
When deciding whether a particular piece of land should be coalesced around nationally, a few questions should be asked. Is it highly ecologically important? Is it winnable? Is it easily accessible nationally? Is the actual physical terrain conducive to action? Will a victory or noisy defeat on this land help save habitats elsewhere?
Mid to late 2001 saw the re-emergence of direct action in defence of the Thorne & Hatfield raised peat bogs. To all the above questions this habitat answers with an enthusiastic YES! At the risk of seeming foolish from the perspective of a few years hence, I believe this campaign to be immensely important. Not only does its re-emergence allow us to co-ordinate nationally but direct victory is quite conceivable. [Since this text was first distributed the campaign escalated and secured the end of peat extraction on Thorne & Hatfield and other sites. See the article in this issue for more details.]
Reform environmentalism has spectacularly failed to save this hugely ecologically precious habitat. If we win this battle and choose our next equally well we could end up in a cycle of success. One noisy victory leads to another and many quiet ones besides.
A recent good example of such a cycle is when animal rights groups got on a roll after closing down Consort, who bred dogs for vivisection. Once they had shown their mettle by closing Consort they followed up by forcing closed Hillgrove (cat breeders) and Shamrock Farm (a monkey quarantine centre). By the time the cycle reached Regal (rabbit breeders), the owners were so freaked that they packed up the day after the campaign was launched!
These successes understandably led animal liberationists to become too cocky too quickly and take on a much bigger target - Huntingdon Life Sciences. HLS is integral to corporate Britain. The state saw the danger of animal liberationists on a roll and realised that if HLS was brought down the 'animal rights extremists' would feel unstoppable. Smaller companies would crumble at the sound of their approach. Thanks in large part to the targeting of its financial backers things were getting economicaly dicey for HLS. The state reacted and stabilised the company by arranging a large injection of capital. From then on HLS has acted as a firebreak, stopping the spread of animal liberation. The cycle may have been broken. The teeth of this trap should not be allowed to cut into resistance again.
A comprehensive analysis of national land defence priorities is too big a job for this piece. Such a study must take place. For the moment we can concentrate on the peat bogs, but we should not wait till victory to map out our next targets. It is around our ability to act nationally that our network survival (rather than just that of our local groups) rests. Previous waves of national action have been defeated by either our victory in a particular battle (i.e. roads) or the pig's success in swamping us (i.e. Sea Empress, Target Tarmac etc). Hopefully this time we'll get the wagon rolling fast enough that it can't be stopped - at least for a while!!!
One priority that can definitely be set is confronting corporations in the National Parks. As long as they succeed in one development, one quarry, one pipeline, the vampires will push on with another attack. It should be our job to make them scared enough to retreat - at least out of some of the National Parks.
The National Parks are immensely important and the hold they have over popular imagination makes them easier to organise around than other areas. It is also often easier to find out about threats facing the Parks. If the companies are given an inch they'll take a mile, but if their profits are threatened they'll run a mile.
The present Nine Ladies action camp in the Peak District National Park stands a fair chance of success, has strengthened the resolve of local conservationists and is deterring other destructive projects.
IMAGE: Wild areas far from activist hubs should not be ignored. Habitats such as the Caledon forest remnants in the Cairngorms deserve our uncompromising defence.
Our movement for the wild has evolved in a physical and political environment lacking big wilderness. Habitats near large human population centres are more likely to defended by us than wilder and more precious eco-systems far from the cities. Wildness is everywhere from the grass between the paving slabs to the high mountains. It's good that we defend wild pockets in deserts of development (the M11, Abbey Pond, Crystal Palace etc.) - primarily for such struggles' (r)evolutionary potential - but we should not ignore 'the mountains' altogether. So far this has largely been the case.
With the exception of some good work in North Wales, the stillborn (but dramatic) campaign against the Skye Bridge and the victorious defence of the Pressmenan Woods Caledon remnant, defence of the wild periphery has been pretty paltry.
An example of our failures can be found in the Cairngorms - one of Britain's largest roadless areas. For at least 8 years I remember occasional campfire/pub chat about the possible construction of a funicular railway up Cairngorm. It's been very contentious as the train replacing the ageing chairlift (itself an aberration) will massively increase the amount of people on the Cairngorm Plateau (1,000 a day is a figure bandied about). With them we knew would come much damage and significant building work, shops and all. Plans are even being discussed for hotels! This isn't fucking Mayfair - it's the summit plateau of one the wildest areas in Britain. Many said that direct action should be used if construction started. The project was put on hold at one point and I for one presumed it had been cancelled.
Yet no one kept their ear to the ground or acted if they knew. The first I heard about the railway being actually built was Autumn 2001 and on January 1st 2002 the first public train ride up Cairngorm was broadcast across the nation. A carriage filled with smiling politicians toasting the New Year - pass the sick bag (No wonder they were smiling - there was no way the parasitic slobs could have got up the mountain in January if they had had to walk it. That would have made far more amusing TV). The glint in their eyes was the reflection of our failure. If one of the last British bastions of wildness can become a site for development, what chance have we got of re-wilding London or Liverpool!
In the Cairngorms 10% of the area below the treeline is still covered by native woodlands and is the "most extensive example of Boreal forest in the UK and one of the largest tracts of comparatively unmanaged and still mainly unenclosed woodland." If we have failed to defend the wildness of the Cairngorms Plateau it is essential we protect these remnants of Caledonia and other sites like them. Though a significant proportion of the massif is now under conservation ownership, a lot of damaging economic/ecocidal activity continues. If anywhere calls for some occasional monkeywrenching, it's these wildlands.
I use this example because it's horrific and it's in Scotland. If protecting SSSIs and the like is of primary national importance it is worth pointing to one simple fact: 20 % of the total area of Scotland is designated either an SSSI, National Nature Reserve, or National Scenic Area. Scotland's total species diversity is far less than England's but its habitats are far less fragmented.
"We have species and habitats in Scotland that are important, in both the national and international context. Examples are the native pinewoods, the extensive blanket bogs, the bryophyte-rich Atlantic woodlands and the enormous colonies of breeding seabirds"
These areas should be militantly defended. Yet apart from the exceptional actions of some communities, few stand up to defend these wild areas from the threats of plantations, logging, development etc. In large part this is because of the absence of people in much of the Scottish countryside - excluded by one of the highest concentrations of land ownership anywhere in the world. Given this, it is all our responsibility to protect these areas. If not you, who? In the long run it would be good to formulate ways of confronting this destruction in a co-ordinated fashion. Until then, happy hikers with wrenches in their backpacks have an important role to play.
Unfortunately what makes Scottish bio-diversity globally unique - its climate edge position resulting in an amazing coexistence of species from different ecologies - is itself under threat from climate change. This should not dissuade us from action but remind us all the more of the need in times of flux for massive wilderness restoration; and situate our local British struggles in the global context. As one contributor at a conference on biodiversity in Scotland put it:
"Our Scottish action on biodiversity is in danger of being reduced to trivial tinkerings on the margin: another example of deckchair-shifting on the Titanic."
As in Scotland, so it is across the divided queendom - many habitats main protection lies in their remoteness and the efforts of an array of often relatively powerless conservationists. Not even on this domesticated isle has the wild been vanquished, but it is under threat. I'm not going to specify the areas in need of special defence - across the wild periphery diversity is being whittled away. We are a people in love with the wild. We are committed to the wild - to its power and its defence. By spending more time 'out in it', we will better know which areas are threatened and gain the inspiration to take the action needed.
PULLOUT: Through walking the wildlands we become more able to defend them and unite with others who hold them in their hearts.
Many tens of thousands desire these areas, finding solace and strength in them. One of Newbury's greatest moments was when the state's use of climbers catalysed the involvement of many from the climbing fraternity. Those who took the state's silver were seen by other climbers for what they truly were - scabs, traitors to the land. A leading climbing magazine stated that what Britain's wild areas really need is a monkeywrench gang unity forged between us, two tribes of the outdoors. I couldn't agree more.
IMAGE: Even the Little Steepingford Ramblers' Association was not without its hooligan element.
Many committed to the wild will not engage in our (r)evolutionary organising. They may scent defeat and futility or simply disagree with our 'political' aims. This is understandable. Thumb in the Dam resistance enables those without hope for any positive change in culture to take action, by militantly defending wildness from negative change by culture. In this they can create hope for nature even if they see little hope for humanity. In the masses of climbers, walkers, hill runners and mountain risk freaks is an untapped force, that if unleashed could become a formidable biocentric army for the wild. Against such a force incursions like the Cairngorm Railway would have little chance.
Through walking the wildlands we become more able to defend them and unite with others who hold them in their hearts. As John Muir said: 'One days exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.' Or a radical eco rag like this for that matter.
Having gone through each of the categories in turn I'll outline some objectives for British habitat defence. These I believe are realistic objectives, some of which we have already got our teeth into. In defending the wildness of our isles we can find both great peace and great excitement. We have shown ourselves capable of being adequate habitat defenders. Let us march on to the defence of many more.
1) Build Bio-regional Defence: Locally we should all continue to expand knowledge of our bioregions and take action when important habitats are threatened. Our ability to generalise the skills and confidence needed for direct action is what will protect areas.
2) Save Thorne/Hatfield Moors and Kick-start a National Cycle of Successes: Despite considerable success throughout the' 90s direct action is often seen as a last stand rather than a tactic that wins. As a network we should pull together for a loud and undeniable victory which can catalyse others. The defence of Hatfield Moors is an excellent terrain of struggle. The habitat is very precious, on the brink of unrecoverable damage and yet it is winnable. It's strategically and ecologically in all our interests that the campaign succeeds. [The campaign has succeeded!]
3) Keep Camp Culture Alive: The high cost of evicting action camps is the reason many habitats are still alive. As recently as 2001 the state cancelled the Hastings Bypass when camps were threatened. Unfortunately the last few years have seen a steady decline in camps. If allowed to continue a decline in our threat potential to stop developments may follow. It's make or break time. We should do all we can - as predominantly urban activists - to keep camp culture alive; otherwise much of the ground gained by the Land Struggle Period could be lost.
At the time of writing there are only three ecological defence camps. The responsibility for aiding them lies with all of us - not just those groups nearest. Tat, cash and bodies are always needed on site. Next time the bailiffs go in we should descend en masse to kick shit, up costs.
Ok, so I sound a bit old school; after all many of us lived on camps but now choose not to. However we should not let our present cloud the continuing and future importance of camps. For nearly ten years there has not been one month in which a camp hasn't held out against development. Let's make sure we can say the same in another ten.
4) Increase Action on the Wild Periphery: Our movement for the wild has too long neglected the wild areas far from the cities. As many in our circles spend more time 'out in it' this action will increase. Let's remember to pack a wrench as well as our waterproofs!
A concerted effort should be made to push militancy among the many tens of thousands who walk the wild. We should aim to empower those who don't wish to 'join' our 'movement', but nevertheless embrace the land ethic and want to defend the areas they love. Boltcroppers for every hiker!
Links should be consolidated with the small number of organisations representing non-ruling class interests in the wilder parts of the British countryside (prime among them of course the Crofters Union).
We should build towards a future where we can make significant interventions on behalf of threatened habitats even when they are far from 'activist centres'. Until then, it's monkeywrench gang time!
Given the onslaught of climate change and the highly fragmented nature of British ecology - especially in England - ecological restoration is essential from a Thumb in the Dam perspective. Isolated reserves will be little use in the long term, what is needed here is the regeneration of big ecosystems that can manage themselves. Before we are finished let's see bison and wolves in the Cotswolds!
Most of this earth is covered by sea. The oceans, birth place of all life. Despite civilisation's ravaging they remain wild. Two centuries ago Byron said it well:
"There is a murmur on the lonely shore. There is a society where none intrudes. By the deep sea and music in it's roar. Roll on thou deep and dark blue Ocean. Four thousand fleets sweep over thee in Vain. Man marks the earth with ruin. His control stops with the Shore."
Since Byron's time the fleets have grown. Huge factory ships sweep the seas leaving ruin in their wake; fisheries which must have seemed endless now brought to the edge by machines which must have been unthinkable; giants of the sea hunted to extinction. Yet Byron is still right. The oceans are the largest wilderness left on earth, injured but untamed.
It is unlikely that the ecologies of the seas will suffer the fate of many of their land cousins; dehabilitated, denuded and finally enclosed within the prison of agriculture. Yet many are under serious threat of being wiped out. In the seas are some of the planets oldest species and systems, survivors of hundreds of millions of years. Now, they drown in man.
Climate change, pollution, factory fishing, whaling, oil exploration and increasing volumes of shipping are some of the main threats to the oceans. How, if at all, can we combat these attacks?
As always, when looking into the chasm we have to accept that much of what is alive today will be dead tomorrow, whatever we do. Coral reefs are one example. Already climate change induced warming of high sea temperatures has killed most of the coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, Western Pacific and Eastern Pacific. Corals in the Caribbean and Brazil have also been badly damaged. Given the time lag inherent in climate change, if we had global insurrection tomorrow (unlikely), we could still expect the death of most of our reefs and the life that depends on them. Depressing, but as the hackneyed old slogan goes: Don't Mourn, Organise! We CAN take some practical action to slow some assaults on the sea.
Despite the spectacular image of Greenpeace dashing around in natty zodiacs, relatively little direct action has been carried out to protect the seas. This is largely for entirely understandable reasons. We are, after all, land mammals and few of us spend much time at sea. When compared to the odd roll of poly-prop the cost of running anything sea-worthy is astronomical. Yet we in the British Isles are ideally placed to get to grips with the problem.
So far the only serious group to take Gaia's side on the oceans is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Its founder, Paul Watson, declared: 'Earth First! is mother earth's army and we are her navy'. Their first action was the 1979 ramming and disabling of a whaling ship off the Portuguese coast. The whaler managed to limp into port only to be mysteriously bombed a few months later sunk with a magnetic limpet mine.
Since then Sea Shepherd has been confronting enemies of the oceans with an arse kicking attitude. Slicing the nets of driftnetters, ramming and scuttling whalers, and sabotaging seal and turtle kills. As I write they are patrolling the waters off the Galapagos Islands. The last year has seen them make headway in eliminating the ecocidal ships attacking this immensely important area. If they succeed it will be one of ecological direct action's biggest victories. It should be no surprise that they might be responsible. In fact, if it wasn't for Sea Shepherd, mass commercial whaling probably would have restarted, pushing numerous species to extinction.
IMAGE: Two Sea Shepherd warriors (an American Indian and a Cornishman) send half the Icelandic whaling fleet to Davy Jones' Locker in 1986.
Though predominately based in North America, Sea Shepherd has operated all over the world carrying out many operations in European waters. Most recently Norwegian and Faeroes whalers have been targets. Its mere presence has a serious deterrent effect. The Italian fishing industry halted its most damaging practices on hearing Sea Shepherd had entered the Mediterranean.
Though a smattering of Brits have crewed, the number is surprisingly small when you think how many of our mad lot it might appeal to. There are a number of reasons. Real lasting links have never been made between us and Sea Shepherd. Personality politics is also a factor. The figure of Captain Paul Watson is both immensely inspiring and deeply off-putting to circles with a dislike for hierarchy and the media. Our height was also their low. The mid to late '90s coincided with a relatively less active period for Sea Shepherd. That period has thankfully now ended with two large boats in the fleet and a growing international organisation.
Though few links exist now, if ever there is a meaningful attempt by our circles to contribute to the defence of the seas, we will have lots to learn from Sea Shepherd. A major driving force behind their success has been good strategy and well applied tactics. So let's have a look.
Most of Sea Shepherds most spectacular actions can be divided into two categories - Sea Confrontations and Harbour Sabotage. The terrain of struggle they operate in is one of both waves and laws. A lot of what they confront is illegal and often beyond state territorial waters. Political considerations make the extradition and jailing of anti-whaling activists difficult.
Sea Confrontations: Slicing driftnets and ramming enemies of the sea is what has made Sea Shepherd famous. The keys to the success of many SSCS sea confrontations is that they're militant - though 'non-violent', media friendly - though not merely stunts, carried out on an international level but rarely against Sea Shepherd host nations, largely against illegal activity, and regularly in international waters. The main key of course is having big fuck-off boats and crews committed enough to plough them into target ships. Keeping these ships running is expensive.
Harbour Sabotage: Sea Shepherd's most infamous action was a daring raid in 1986 that left half of Iceland's whaling fleet at the bottom of a harbour and its major processing plant trashed. This action needed only good intelligence, cunning, limited funds and two brave souls to open up the boats' sea water intake valves. By the time the action was discovered, the two, a Native American and a Cornishman, were on their way to the airport to leave Iceland forever. Since '86 Sea Shepherd has carried out other impressive scuttling, most notably against Norwegian whalers.
So far no-one in Sea Shepherd has served any major time for any of their actions! Despite SSCS glaring victories no other groups have successfully copied them by taking to the seas. It would be excellent if an autonomous Sea Shepherd-like organisation evolved in Europe. But with no such groups coming into existence, those who wish to take action at sea must join the long volunteer lists of SSCS.
Readers who have served aboard Sea Shepherd or have general maritime experience should seriously consider the need for a European addition to 'Neptune's Navy'.
IMAGE: Off-shore fish farming is set expand massively. Pictured above is the mechanical feeding of fish to fish. It takes approximately four tonnes of wild fish to feed one tonne of farmed fish.
Much money and commitment would be needed to set it up, but it would be an immense asset to ecological resistance in Europe. Such a project, if handled right, could bring together energy and resources from a range of circles - radical eco-types, ex-members of Greenpeace's direct action units, animal liberationists & rights groups, ex-Sea Shepherd crew etc. Indeed, the years have proven that there is significant mass support for radical action at sea - especially when it comes to dosh. Two decades ago, a third of the cost of the first Sea Shepherd boat was put up by the RSPCA. The Faeroes campaign in '86 was funded mainly by English school children who raised £12,000 in a save-the-whale walkathon.
While Sea Shepherd is alone in carrying out militant sea confrontations, the tactic of harbour sabotage has been taken up by others. Even here in Britain serious sabotage was carried out against seal cullers in the mid '70s, resulting in the destruction of one vessel and damage to another. Across Europe a number of ecocidal ships have been scuttled. Recently, Norway has been the prime target.
On 11/12/01 one of Norway's main meat processing plants at Loften Dock was destroyed by fire, causing damage totalling at least £1.5 million. Five days earlier, the whaler Nehella had burned and sunk at the same dock costing £150,000. Another whaler, the Nybraena, was damaged when the factory fire spread to the dock. The Nybraena had been scuttled by Sea Shepherd agents in Christmas 1992, for which Norway sought in vain to extradite Captain Watson.
These recent actions also follow another action on 27/2/00. Then, another Norwegian whaling vessel, the Villduen, was destroyed when an explosion sunk the ship at its moorings. The blast collapsed the deck and the ship sank to the bottom of the harbour half an hour later. Sea Shepherd stated publicly that they were not responsible. It has always denied the use of explosives and this is what it said about the attacks. 'We neither take, nor condone actions that might result in any injuries. None the less, we are pleased for the whales!'
IMAGE: The Sea Shepherd 2 gathers in driftnet. The flag emblems signify the number of Norwegian/Japanese etc. boats SSCS have rammed or sunk.
While putting a new fleet afloat would take a lot of work, basic harbour sabotage takes few resources bar pluck. While the recent Norway bombing and arson were obviously very effective, monkeywrenching can be effectively done with just hand tools. An exact and proven guide to the subject has been written by Sea Shepherd Agent #013. S/he says in the intro:
"With the scuttling of ecologically destructive ships comes the possibility of doing tens of millions of dollars of economic damage. We are talking megatage here. The joy of bringing down a whaler can be one of the great pleasures in an eco-warrior's life. It can be the most treasured of feathers in one's spiritual war bonnet."
S/he should know - the author was one of the team that scuttled the Nybraena in 1992.
We have looked at direct action tactics used in the defence of the sea and posited some possible conclusions. Now maybe it's worth looking at the situation around the British Isles directly. Beyond the unconfrontable cataclysms of climate change and the like, a variety of processes threaten the marine ecologies around our shores. The oil industry (especially expansion into the Atlantic frontier), factory fishing, industrial shoreline expansion, marine aggregate dredging and pollution.
In my opinion we can have little impact on pollution given the continuation of the system. It's a hydra with too many heads/outflow pipes. The odd concrete blockage might be good for press attention and a bit of justice, but it's not really meaningful.
Of the other threats, we have only done action against industrial shoreline expansion. The best example is the campaign against the Cardiff Bay Barrage, which though unsuccessful is credited with discouraging some other similar schemes. A similar struggle could soon arise at Dibden Bay on the edge of the New Forest. These campaigns are really just an extension of the land struggles, with the possible added excitement of zipping around in dinghies, so I will not go into detail here.
IMAGE: Most coral reefs are now either dead or doomed. Retribution is needed.
The oil industry at sea has been largely ignored by us bar the ridiculous debacle that was the Sea Empress Spill Anniversary Action. As it happened it would have been far better had we ignored it. (Though all credit goes to Reclaim the Valleys, who tried to rescue the situation when the organising group 'Cardigan Bay EF!' went AWOL on the day - after 70+ activists from around the country turned up!) So far only Greenpeace has done actions around the Atlantic Frontier. It is beyond me how with our present resources we could carry out direct defence of this globally important marine ecosystem - but let's at least get our grey cells working on the issue. Though it's not actually getting in the way on the Atlantic Frontier itself, blockades etc of Britain's oil infrastructure may be useful. When jewels like the St. Kilda region are under threat, action must be taken.
As for factory fishing, Britain is both a base and a stopping port for fleets of driftnetters and klondkyers from around the world. Look through the eyes of agent #013 to see the work ahead.
Fishing quotas are resulting in the elimination of over half of the British fishing fleet. Unfortunately this is not automatically a cause for celebration. The elite are using the collapse of fish 'stocks' to eliminate small fishing boats while leaving large factory boats to trawl the seas. There is potential for some level of joint action by radical ecologists and militant fishing communities against big ships and the economic forces steering them. The barriers and conflicts which would need to be overcome to build such a unity are maybe too big and it's maybe too late already.
Aggregate dredging - aka quarrying the sea - is set to become a significant threat to marine life around this island. Massive expansion plans are afoot which among other things threaten 'fish stock breeding areas'. Fisherfolk in France have already shown their opposition, and ironically there could be a point of tactical unity between us around this attack. As far as I know, no one is organising on this.
IMAGE: Sea Shepherd 'escorts' dolphin-killing Mexican tuna boat away from Spotted Dolphin pod, 100 miles west of Guatemala.
I have been more vague when dealing with defending the living sea than I was when discussing defending the living land. This is not a reflection of their relative importance; just on our position today and the powers we have developed. Though hotspot style analysis does exist for the seas, it is both less developed, less accurate and, for us anyway, less relevant. As mentioned before, some of the most diverse marine ecosystems - such as many coral reefs - are probably doomed thanks to climate change. Nothing we can do will save them. However, I do believe there are some steps we can take to move towards the challenge of defending the living seas
1) Engage with Sea Shepherd: The SSCS has a UK contact but no office. We should build connections and aid them if possible. At the very least we should distribute their material and give whatever support we can when their boats visit Britain. We should raise awareness of their mission and do solidarity actions if and when they are arrested. Despite reservations, more Brits should volunteer to serve aboard Sea Shepherd vessels.
2) Expand Neptune's Navy: There is no innate reason for the non-existence of European Sea Shepherd style boats. This project could take years to come to fruition but would be immensely valuable as both a tool for direct action and a training ship for marine wilderness defenders.
3) Sink 'Em My Hearties: No massive organisation is needed to scuttle a whaler or similar ship. Serious thought should go on before such action is taken. 'Illegal' whalers should primarily be targeted as they are presently trying to expand their 'harvest'. All that holds us back is our fear.
4) Investigate and Take Action off British Shores: Research needs to be done, similar in scope to that needed for British land habitats, to find out which marine ecosystems are both threatened and within our capacity to defend. Solid conclusions should lead to solid action, setting national priorities for action.
5) Skill Up: Our circles should try to increase our watery skills. Scuba, ships, zodiacs, sailing, navigation - whatever. Worse case scenario is we have a fun time with little political payoff. Best scenario is we have fun and prepare ourselves for campaigns to come.
IMAGE: Our Isles host fleets of factory ships. A large purse-seiner (above) based in North East Scotland hauls in a catch of herring from the North Sea. How long will these Leviathans roam unhunted?
Radical ecology has always taken its cue from indigenous resistance. Our crossed wrench and stone axe symbol holds the very essence of our movement; a fighting unity between primal people and those deep in industrial society who want to wrench their way out.
While the Fourth World survives enveloped within the borders of some First World countries, most indigenous people live in the Majority World. In Europe, only a minority of Sami live in any way similar to our ancestors. Thus as with biological meltdown, the struggle against cultural meltdown calls us 'over the water'.
Beyond the core the tribes are everywhere under attack. Many are engaged in large-scale resistance to leviathan: the Papuans, the Zapatistas and the Ijaw for example. Our circles have already done quite a lot of action to support these indigenous communities and this should continue. Here I am less concerned with them (cultures with significant populations capable of major action), than with those small shrinking wild societies that if left without allies will undoubtedly soon perish. I cover the work needed to aid struggling indigenous communities later at length in Task IV - Supporting Rebellions Beyond the Core.
There are many scattered individuals trying to help endangered primal cultures but no solid network that enables them to co-operate internationally. The nearest to what is needed is Friends of People Close to Nature (FPCN). FPCN has carried out serious no-compromise work around the world. Unfortunately it revolves largely around a man who has severe problems working with other people and has dubious ideas around gender and race. Never the less, many practical things can be learned from this 'network'.
FPCN concentrates less on solidarity actions than with getting out there and helping directly. Two examples of some recent campaigns illustrate their attitude.
Within the territory of 'Tanzania' live the Hadzabe - East Africa's last gatherer-hunters. One band are typical. Pushed to the most marginal land, banned from using the only watering hole in miles unless they perform for tourists, their children abducted by soldiers and forced into schools; under siege from all sides by settlers & missionaries. While Western White trophy hunters armed with modern weapons zip around in Land Rovers decimating the local mega-fauna, Hadzabe hunters are jailed for hunting with bows and arrows in their traditional lands. They don't have hunting licences, just an unbroken history thousands of years old.
FPCN activists visited the scattered camps to see how they could help. They provided basic humanitarian aid and protested against the local powers. Best of all, they hired a truck and rescued abducted Hadzabe children from enforced schooling and returned them to their families in the bush. There, as everywhere, missionaries are the advance guard of civilisation. The simple presence of 'Westerners' who decry the missionaries for the fools, charlatans and profiteers they are strengthened the tribal resolve.
"The hatred against these strangers grows among the Hadzabe. FPCN stands ready to sanction and assist with the burning out of churches on Hadzaland following a similar explosion where a church was completely destroyed by local tribespeople."
Many thousands of miles away, the last gatherer-hunters surviving in the Philippines face similar threats. Like many tribes across the world, genocide has whittled down the Agta to the low hundreds. They are 'Red Book' humans! They have become landless refugees in their own land.
In 2001 FPCN raised £8,000 and purchased 10 hectares of stolen Agta tribal land in Dipuntian. This land is meant to be a base for a significant section of the Agta population and for action against local logging of the rainforest. FPCN have called for sorted Western visitors to help out on the reserve and in the resistance:
"I would suggest you stay here and look what can be done. Watch the non-hierarchic and soft way of Agta life, so you will perhaps love them and feel the need to protect them."
FPCN is now trying to raise another £10,000 to buy an adjoining piece of land for another 100 Agta who want to stay. FPCN list a number of things western visitors can do at Dipuntian from 'watch the small scale loggers not to cut the trees to Keep missionaries out of the place. The Agta feel safer when foreigners are around."
In Task IV I go into detail about practical work that can be done to support rebellions beyond the core, much of which is directly applicable to the defence of primal cultures. So to avoid repetition I will not go into tactical detail here. The two campaigns mentioned above provide good examples of what might needed to slow cultural meltdown.
I will draw out some objectives to further us on the path to aiding tribes in general and gatherer-hunters in particular.
1) Forge Links with Allies: A real effort needs to be made to link up supporters of gatherer-hunters interested in solidarity actions and direct aid. The lack of a well functioning network is hindering activity. [In the first published version of this text I advocated 'consolidating links with FPCN'. Unfortunately despite a lot of good will on the side of EF!ers FPCN's leader had been obstructive, rude and downright difficult to deal with from the start. Other problems specifically around FPCN and the Agta have also surfaced. Despite this I believe they have done more to help out gatherer-hunters than nearly any other Western group. This should not blind us to the group's serious problems, but instead underline the need for activists from our networks to learn from and in large part replace them.]
2) Provide Direct Aid to Gatherer-Hunters, Starting with the Agta: By aiding the Agta we can have a real impact on a perilous situation. Only £10,000 is needed to buy the adjacent land to the Dipuntian reserve. Raising a substantial proportion of the cash needed should not be impossible. Flights from Europe plus internal connections to the reserve cost just over £400. Once there living costs are low. This is an unusually cheap opening for on-the-ground support work, not to mention an amazing experience. Don't let this opportunity pass by! [People didn't - see below.]
The Agta are defenders of the local rainforest. Earlier I stated that the Philippines are one of the three hottest hotspots, in facing global biological meltdown one of our highest priorities. Here we have an opportunity to give direct aid and on-the-ground solidarity to an endangered gatherer-hunter community struggling to protect an ecology within one of the three hottest of the global hotspots, in one of the few Majority World countries with active EF! groups. The importance of any action on this field cannot be overstated.
Any involvement by our circles with the Agta would act as a jumping board, extending experience and contacts - thus enabling similar work elsewhere. [In January of 2003 four Leeds EF!ers went over to the Philippines with the express purpose of helping at Dipuntian and working with EF! Philippines. Meanwhile quite a few in the movement had pulled together around the inspirational sounding project and raised the needed funds for the second land purchase- through a mix of benefit gigs, beer selling, personal donations and grants. Unfortunately Dipuntian was definitely different than is publicity stated. As the EF!ers said on return; "For the past year, much of SSP's work on the Philippines has centred around the FPCNproject at Dipuntian... We provided publicity and volunteers, and secured funding to buy more land for the project. Having now visted and worked on the project we have made the decision to withdraw our support for it." While this was very disapointing, to say the least, the visit was by no means a waste of time. Not only did the 'fact finding mission' uncover some, unfortunate, facts - it also forged links with Agta bands elsewhere and tribes throughout the islands, as well as supporting Filipino EF!ers. The Leeds visit achieved a number of decent things itself and has opened up the way to further, targeted action. More info can be found on continuing work and the probems involved on : www.eco-action.org/ssp.]
3) Reconnect with Young Lions EF!: Six years ago Young Lions EF! (South Africa) were aiding the San Bushman, setting up 'bush skill' training camps where elders taught the old knowledge to 'assimilated' San. The last we heard from them they were planning to smuggle a considerable number of San back into the Kalahari desert from which they had been expelled. We have heard nothing since despite some attempts at contact. YLEF! were an exceptional group, we must hope they're alright. Serious attempts should be made to find out what happened and aid them if they are still active.
4)Continue to Build Indigenous Solidarity Work: Those struggling indigenous peoples we have aided so far (Ogoni, Ijaw, Papuan, Bougainvillian, Zapatista etc.) deserve our support. This will involve a lot of activity, but we are well on our way. A detailed look at what is needed can be found in Task IV. The last wild peoples call us 'over the water'. I know some of us will answer them, yet we must be very careful not to cause damage with our good intentions - 'Mosquito Coast' style. These are incredibly delicate situations. Tribal people already have a plague of 'do gooders', what they need is allies. "Most tribes have no voice.They need people like us as allies because all the other potential allies have agendas they want to impose in return for help. They are fighting for freedom, not for rights within our culture. Since freedom doesn't exist in our culture then theirs is truly the same."
To the land of these Isles most of us will return one day - dying, rotting, giving life. Until then, the wind and soil in our soul should direct us. When our leaps halt machines, our scythes cut through experiments, our wrenches disable diggers and our matches start fires - we are the land.
Though we love this land, we love this entire earth and thus the global crisis calls us 'over the water'. In the biological/cultural meltdown Britain's diversity is marginal. To confront the meltdown we will need to join the battle to defend the earth's last big wildernesses - on land and at sea. However, many of us will be unable to reach these global ecological frontlines and will have to fight to preserve fragments behind enemy lines. Above all else, the wild areas in the Mediterranean call us.
To slow cultural meltdown, the last remaining wild peoples must be aided in every way. If most of our species are ever to break out of this nightmare of our own making and find our way back to the earth, we will have a lot to learn from them.
Back in Britain, let's expand and escalate our action. In the conflict over road building ecological direct action took on the STATE and WON. Let's zero in on particular attacks on wildness and stop them one after the other.
We have the power to defeat some of civilisation's attacks on the wild, both here and in the hotspots; will we unleash it? While community mobilising may win the day in some battles, sometimes 'vanguard' action is called for. Here lies a contradiction for us. The militant action needed could in fact alienate and hinder the (r)evolutionary process. It could result in increased state repression and a cut in public support. These are big problems but do not mean we should preclude militant action - for the price may be worth paying. After all, Thumb in the Dam struggles aim to protect ecological diversity while waiting not just for the possibility of global (r)evolution but the certainty of industrial collapse. As warriors for the earth we must put the earth first!.
Next (Task III)
1) From Harrison Ford's (!) intro to: Hotspots: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecosystems by Russel A. Mittermeher, Norman Myers and Christina Goettsch, ISBN 9686397582
2) Conservation Biology by ME Soule and Bruce A. Wilcox, Eds., p. 166
3) 'The Chartist Anthem', in The Jolly Machine: Songs of Industrial Protest and Social Discontent From the West Midlands by M. Raven.
4) Hotspots, p. 37
5) Ibid. A number of the hugely important major tropical wildernesses are not presently included in the hotspot list They are Amazonia, the Congolian Forest Block of Central Africa, New Guinea (i.e. West Papua and PNG), the Melanesian Islands - New Britain, New Ireland, Northern Solomons (i.e. Bougainville and Buka), Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. These areas are all under some level of attack - some heavy - but they all retain over 25% of their original area untrashed. The team that wrote Hotspots are in the process of writing a report on these areas. While they need defence, from the perspective of global triage they are not presently areas of highest global priority. Of course if industrialism continues for much longer these areas will almost definitely join the global habitat 'red list'.
6) While the Philippines does not appear in the overall 'top 9' list; when looking at plant endemism alone it is ranked ninth highest of all the hotspots.
7) Caribbean Environment Watch produce a useful newsletter: CEW, 141 Coldershaw Road, Ealing, London, W13 9DU.
8) Cubans grew one of the largest anarcho-syndicalist movements in the world. Though its height was in the 1920s it was still a significant force when Castro rose to power. Armed resistance to the communist counter-revolution ended in jail for well over 100 anarchists. Many companeras were killed and hundreds more went into exile.
9) Important issues must be faced when supporting mainstream conservation programs in the Majority World which too often just shit on local people. Though conservation fiefdoms are in many ways just another form of colonialism they may still be the best hope for some species survival through this century. A prickly reality. It matters little to a bear how oppressed its killer is and the sap still spurts whether the tree is cut with the axe of a peasant or the chainsaw of a company logger. In the war between humanity and nature, I side with the bears. Nevertheless multinational conservation organisations awash with money make questionable allies!
10) As well as mainstream conservationists some Turkish anarchists have recently done anti-GM actions - hopefully an indication of the greening of that scene.
11) This is for many reasons - not least of which relates to language and Britain's colonial past. It is no surprise that many of the majority world groups we Brits have linked up with have been in ex-British colonies and/or Christianised countries. We need to go beyond this and forge links across these divides. So for some of the countries in the Med the kind of work needed for most other hotspots is called for. It is likely that groups in Spain, Italy etc. will be able to connect us up to groups in these areas better. For example, French anarchists, for reasons connected to their own country's colonial past, are much more aware of the 2001 Berber uprising in Algeria than British activists.
12) The desire to escape the boredom of much of our present activism. The state repression of travellers. The squeezing of dole autonomy. High land prices and repressive planning law.
13) Hotspots, p. 177
14) Hotspots, p. 182
15) See 'Farmageddon: Confronting Industrial Agriculture', Do or Die No. 7, p. 40
16) See 'Victory at Offham', Do or Die No. 6, p. 62
17) See 'South Downs Mass Trespasses '98: Notes on Packed Lunches and Revolution', Anon., South Downs EF!
18) Ecological and strategical importance are fundamentally different. Strategical importance relates to us, our abilities and what effect action at a specific site will have on our growth or collective power. Ecological importance relates to the intrinsic value of sites irrespective of our ability to defend them.
19) At the Rio Earth Summit nonsense in 1992, governments said they would catalogue their countries' biodiversity. The card-filers of the apocalypse have been busy and you can check out their handy work on the UK Biodiversity Website: www.ukbap.org.uk The website is being added to constantly and you can search it for particular habitat types nationally or locally, or look at biodiversity in your county generally. Some of the website is very useful, other parts blather.
20) The move into a cycle of large-scale daytime national mobilisations was a significant shift in strategy for animal libbers - catalysed by the unexpected mass explosion of the live export protests (See 'Shoreham: Live Exports and Community Defence', Do or Die No. 5, p. 75). After the significant victories of the '80s against vivisection and fur farming animal libbers looked to escalate action against the largest cause of animal suffering in Britain. Their target - industrial agriculture. Their action against the meat/dairy industry - a vast target to say the least - though dramatic (just look at those meat trucks burn!) was a failure. Few animals were saved and the entirely covert nature of the activity seriously cut into 'recruitment' and 'outreach'. Industrial agriculture is just too big a target. Ironically the live export resistance opened a way out of this impasse.
21) Common Sense and Sustainability: A Partnership for the Cairngorms - Executive Summary, The Scottish Office, p. 4
22) Biodiversity in Scotland, The Stationary Office, ISBN 0114958157
23) Ibid. p. 287. Read: 'No Evolution Without Revolution: The Political Ecology of Wolves, Beavers, Sheep and Deer', Do or Die No. 6, p. 34
24) While crofters are some of the best allies of the Highlands and Islands nothing is without its contradictions. The growth of hugely damaging salmon farms is one example. The Crofters Union has recently been in increased contact with Via Capensina!, the global peasant network which includes among others the Karnataka farmers and the Confederation Paysanne. For a good intro to reality for today's crofters read: The Story of Crofting in Scotland by Douglas Willis, ISBN 0859763447
25) See: 'Over Fishing: Causes and Consequences', The Ecologist, March 1995.
26) Though still globally minor in scale industrial 'mariculture' is set to grow massively over the next few decades. From the salmon farms of the Scottish Hebrides to the slaveing of Caribbean fisheries, civilisation is attempting to manage sealife as it does landlife. All over the world considerable struggles are being waged between traditional fishers and industrial sea farming. See: 'Taking the Pisces: Struggles of the Fishworkers of India', Do or Die No. 8, p. 251
27) 'Wildlife in Danger', The Ecologist, March 1999.
28) The Galapagos Islands are one of the two exceptional mini-hotspots which Myers et al. see as global priorities on a par with the 25 conventional hotspots.
29) 'Occurrences in the Ferocious Isles', EF! Journal, September 1986.
30) The 1974 seal cull ship sabotage at Sutton Bridge was one of the first acts of the Band of Mercy, predecessor of the ALF. See: Animal Warfare: The Story of the Animal Liberation Front, David Henshaw, ISBN 0006373240, p. 15
31) Notorious Vessel Meets Explosive End! : www.seashepherd.org/research/international/villduen.html - link broken
32) 'How to Sink Whalers, Driftnetters, and other Environmentally Destructive Ships' by Sea Shepherd Agent #013, p. 343 in Ecodefence, Ed. Dave Foreman, ISBN 0963775103
33) See: 'Putting a Spanner in the Oil Industry's Works', Do or Die No.7, p. 66
34) 'Hadzabe: East Africa's Last Hunting and Gathering Tribe', Do or Die No. 8, p. 267
35) For more information see: http://www.eco-action.org/ssp/
36) 'Hadzabe: East Africa's Last Hunting and Gathering Tribe', Do or Die No. 8, p. 267
37) 'Tribal Round-up', Do or Die No. 8, p. 264