Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Earth First! in Northern California: Interview with Judi Bari

In an interview with Judi Bari, leader of Earth First!, Doug Bevington and the activist discuss the work she has done with the organization, her struggles with local logging companies, and other related topics.
The interview begins with Bari's description of the region in which her organization is located. She explains that the area is "impoverished," which has resulted in the scaling down of police and areas becoming "virtually lawless." She then goes on to name the big logging companies in the region--Louisiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific, and Maxxam-- and explains the problems associated with each. She points out that a locally-owned company, Pacific Lumber, which boasted the reputation of "hav[ing] the best of what is left in the world" as well as having "the closest thing to sustainable logging practices" was unfortunately taken over by one of the big name companies (p. 2).

Next Bari discusses environmental groups in the region, noting that Earth First! and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) are the most prominent. EPIC deals with filing lawsuits on timber harvest plans and Earth First! is in charge of "defining the issues and also does the direct action, the logging blockades" (p. 4). Bari also points out that there is little influence by national groups, and that the movement is a "very locally-based, grassroots" one (p. 4).

When asked about agreement and conflict concerning the coalition with timber workers, Bari explains that the interests of the environmentalists who wish to protect the forests and the interests of the workers coincide because "both forests and the workers are exploited by out-of-town corporations" but that there is conflict where envormentalists who believe there should be no logging come in. Bari talks about how large environmental groups are "primarily urban, priveleged people" and the workers are a rural, less priveleged class and that it's exactly this difference that timber companies try to exploit to make the environmental movement seem like it's filled with uppity urban people who have no concern for the rural people. However, by educating the groups on either side of the conflict--the workers and the environmentalists--and making sure the each party's concerns are expressed and addressed, Earth First! has been successful in buidling alliances with the timber workers (p. 5-7).

Bari next comments on the threats and lawsuits received by Earth First! as the coalition became stronger. She talks about threats on her life, including a near-fatal bombing incident and receiving a picture of herself with a scope and crosshairs on her face. The corporations were trying anything and everything to stop the work of Earth First! (p. 13).

When discussing why the big timber companies have little interest in sustainable forestry, Bari suggests that because the companies (specifically Louisianna Pacific) are so large and own forests all over, they aren't concerned with long-term investment in the region where Bari works. According to the activist, these companies can sell the land after they have used it and move on to exploit other forests.

Towards the end of the interview, Bevington discusses with Bari her opinion of what it will take to have a sustainable relationship with the forests. She explains that what is needed is Revolutionary Ecology. We need to find a way to stop destroying the Earth and that way must exclude exploiting lower classes (p. 27).

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit it was quite shocking to read that there was an attempt at the lives of Bari and Cherney. The fact that they were blamed for planting their own bomb under the car seat and then arrested for it by the police and FBI is preposterous. It is amazing the lengths people in power will go to in order to get what they want.

    Also, it's important to put out information about important issues in a way that is accessible to everyone. Everyone deserves to have a voice and if people aren't even aware of what's going on, then how can you put any kind of policy or project into practice with a clear conscience? Bari stresses that we need to put theory into practice and unite people, such as the workers with the environmentalists. I think that movements like Earth First have real potential to create change. Judy Bari is amazing and this article revealed a lot to me about the politics of trying to create change when the people in power are against you.