Green War Gets Radical


This book is a reality check for those who still view the environmental movement through rose-tinted glasses.

While it does not sketch the rise of environmentalism and the launching of Earth Day on Lenin's birthday on April 22, 1970—it delivers one into a mature, popular and well-funded 25-year old movement. It paints a vivid picture of the Greens in action in the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest that is so different from the conventional view of environmentalism, that all but the least reflective reader will ask: What is going on here?

"The Secret Wars of Judi Bari" documents the efforts of left-wing, radical environmentalist and Earth First! leader Bari to organize the Redwood Summer in 1990. Her goal was to gather thousands of people from across the nation in the California coastal counties of Mendocino and Humbolt and shut down the timber industry, especially the harvest of redwood trees.

Large corporations, their sawmills and logging jobs were specifically targeted. Their tactics involved confrontational marches and blockades, trespass, chaining themselves to trees and trucks and the destruction of logging equipment.

This escalated into continuous confrontations and near-violence. Loggers and sawmill workers were deeply angry at the efforts to destroy their industry, jobs, families and communities. Although opposed by traditional natural resource users, the Greens got support from liberals, soccer moms, hippies, artists and an army of marijuana growers and users. Fears of violence and concerns about ecoterrorism brought in police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the FBI.

This mounting conflict resulted in the near-fatal explosion of a car bomb under the driver's seat of Bari's Subaru on May 24, 1990. In critical condition in the hospital, Bari was arrested and charged with transporting bombs, bringing her to national attention.

Until her death from breast cancer in 1997, Bari and her supporters tried to prove a conspiracy by the FBI and the Oakland Police Department to discredit her and the movement, violate their rights and complicity in her bombing. In 2002, a jury found the FBI and OPD guilty of wrongful arrest and violation of free-speech rights and awarded them $4 million. But, the car-bombing remains unsolved. Others rushed in to capitalize on Bari's achievements, and further radicalize the environmental movement.

Groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, have torched hotels, office buildings, homes, SUV dealerships and research labs and threatened individuals and small businesspeople. A movement that once claimed it only committed violence against property is now calling for violence against people.

As environmentalism continues to grow in power and wealth and the radical wing becomes more violent, basic natural resource industries including forest products, mining, oil and gas and ranching are forced into developing countries with few environmental laws. The result: Industries and jobs leave America and relocate to nations with higher biodiversity and species richness, where there is no environmental protection.

This raises the question: What precisely do the Greens want?


A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods, and the End of Earth First

By Kate Coleman

Encounter Books, 261 pages, $25.95