"You can't repair the health of the planet when those who continue to destroy it still make the rules and decisions. The rich won't just give away their money and property, and tyrants won't just lay down their arms and let fall the reins of power." – Michael Hardt
"If you are looking to change the rules, why start by abiding by them? You have to start from the premise that fairness can't be 'resumed' because it was never there in the first place. In conditions where everything is stacked against the majority, 'playing fair' amounts to accepting a position of disadvantage. In fighting for fairness, one doesn't have to 'play fair'." - Mark Fisher
An interesting documentary by Marshall Curry, "If a Tree Falls" delves into the life, arrest and trial of Daniel McGowan, a member of the Earth Liberation Front. In 2011, the film was nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award.
Curry's film peers into McGowan's childhood and attempts to examine the motivations of those who populate the ELF, a group which many dub an "eco terrorist organisation". Like most who resort to violence – the ELF sets fire to various businesses and corporations – McGowan and his compatriots see themselves as "freedom fighters" who have been "forced" into using guerrilla tactics. For the ELF, official channels are futile, power is too entrenched and the status quo blocks all reform.
"Tree's" second half interviews land owners, the police and the Department of Justice, all of whom succeed in getting ELF members categorised as "terrorists". Such a label allows the US government to aim its various multi-billion dollar anti-terrorist wings at the group. As a result, the ELF now lays low. An offshoot of the British Earth First! movement, it was at the height of its power in the 1990s and early 2000s. Its ideology stressed anti-authoritarian anarchism, environmentalism, an anti-capitalist stance and a commitment to a collective defence of the Earth. It took the form of a transnational, decentralised network of clandestine, autonomous cells, with each cell's broader operational knowledge derived from books and lectures disseminated by mainstream environmentalists. "Our earth is being murdered by greed, corporate and personal interests," one of the group's press releases would state. "The rape of the Earth puts everyone's life at risk. There are over 6 billion people on this planet of which almost a third are either starving or living in poverty. The time has come to decide what is more important: the planet and the health of its population or the profits of those who destroy it and us. We are but the symptoms of a corrupt society on the brink of ecological collapse."
Today, many dismiss the ELF as nutty radicals (the term "radical" comes from the Latin word "radicalis", meaning "to get to the root of a problem"), yet even the Pentagon and US military now annually publish detailed reports fretting about the dangers of climate change. Mainstream environmental groups likewise ceaselessly moan about the dangerous acidification of the earth's oceans, the daily extinction of species and so forth. This is what author and philosopher Rob Nixon calls a "slow violence", referring to the attritional lethality, or cumulative effect, of many environmental crises (climate change, toxic drift, ocean PH levels, 95 percent of US forests being cleared, heat rises due to exponential rising global energy requirements, deforestation, oil spills, the leaking of arsenic, lead, selenium, mercury etc). All of this is ignored.
Meanwhile, the Law frets about the illegality of the ELF. But the criminal justice systems in capitalist liberal democracies have always been less about justice and more about shifting attention away from social problems (whilst shunting blame upon the working classes). It's no surprise, then, that the ELF rejects the false moralism that defines the acceptability of actions by their acceptability to Power. Indeed, throughout history, breaking the law has been straightforwardly just and reasonable. Likewise, throughout history, upholding the law has often represented an acceptance of systemic injustice and violence. The hungry do not need to justify their efforts to feed themselves. The dispossessed or landless do not need to explain their attempts to house themselves. The brutalised do not need to seek permission to stop brutality. Their efforts are not radical. Radicalism is a Power that denies its own extremism, violence and disorder - the violence of inequality, dispossession, the destruction of traditional or indigenous communities and the extermination of people, ecosystems and species. These are real extremist behaviours, and they are endemic to a system in which destruction for profit is seen as a "rational" act. Yet Power never identifies this as being radical. Instead, such things are always presented as a fact of life, a cost of doing business, a side effect of necessary progress, an unfortunate outcome of history (with no one responsible).
And so when Daniel McGowan takes down a factory it's a crime against private property. Meanwhile, every year, over two hundred thousand Americas die young to air pollution, 14 billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the ocean, over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution, over 3 million kids die from environmental factors, the Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico (creating a "dead zone" the size of New Jersey), 40 percent of US lakes, rivers and estuaries are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming and the US produces an estimated 30% of the world's waste (and uses 25% of the world's resources whilst dumping 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm-water, and industrial waste into its own waters). All of this, and more, is deemed, not extreme, but pretty mundane.
8/10 - Worth one viewing.
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