¡Cascadia Rising! The Ecopunk and the Decline of Industrial Civilization
Somewhere along the dusty trail of punkdom, a ragged, jagged cutting edge began working its way out of the mediocre bulk of the “scene.” Small groups of punks, who realized that there was more to the world than collecting old Finnish hardcore records, charging their hair and getting drunk, and who actually believed all the ideas screened on their patches, painted on their jackets and scribed in their lyric sheets, began seeking out an alternative to the vain sloganeering and ridiculous monotony of the punk scene. They began analyzing global politics and examining the intricate webs of dependency that have been spun by global capitalism over the past half century. They began noticing that there was no such thing as a “single issue” in a world where everything is interconnected. They began questioning the nature of civilization and its encroachment on the Earth. They began taking note that as much as punk was opposed to the system, it was actually just as reliant upon it as the rest of “normal” society. Suddenly things began clicking. What good was a DIY mentality when it was only applied to trivial subcultural commodities like records and T-shirts and not physical necessities like food production or health care? What was the use in pretending to be “against the system” when the noose of dependency had us bound to the rafters of corporate control? What could we do to actualize the our convictions in the face of the most massive, and well armed, corporate industrial complex the world has ever known?
Like anarchists and other radical subcultures, not to mention every indigenous culture, throughout history, the answer was found in one word; LAND. As much as one can try and hide behind the shiny distractions of civilization or bury their heads in meaningless trivialities like scene politics, there is no escaping our ties to the land. Whether or not we like it, all of us our dependent upon the land for our very existence. It is from the land that ALL of our food; vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, is given. It is from the land that we receive the bulk of the oxygen in our air. It is the land and the ecosystems that find life on it that directly influence the weather we receive. It is the health of the land that dictates the health of the people and communities that live off of it. And ultimately, it is the condition of the land that dictates what kind of future, if any, humanity has on Earth.
However, following 150 years of the unrestrained advancement of industrialized civilization, these biological, societal, and spiritual ties to the land have almost been erased from human consciousness. As “progress” forced exponentially increasing numbers of people off the land and into the cities where they could be conveniently used as exploitable fodder in factories, so did civilization begin forcing itself onto the lives of humanity in more insidious forms. Suddenly, it was no longer the land upon which people relied for sustenance, but rather the industrial agriculture complex. And the system lost no time in convincing the populace that it had “liberated” them from endless toil in the fields and “freed” them from the drudgery of the countryside, while at the same time cinching tight its control over basic needs like food and water.
And the evidence for this coup de tat spans far deeper than just corporate control over food, it also marks the death of culture. As humans became more disassociated from their roots on the land and became dependent wage slaves in cities, so did the traditional virtues of independence, autonomy and self-determination go the way of the passenger pigeon. And the psychological vacancies dredged by this decline of self-reliance and independence were quickly filled by the cycles of urban dependency, perpetual poverty, and the helpless victim mentality. In fact, the further humans have been removed from the land and herded into the false bastions of artificial civilization, cities, the further the reach of corporate colonialism has extended itself into the lives, minds and hearts of the people.
There is a reason that the inner cities and suburbs of the world are seized with an intense sense of hopelessness and despair, a feeling of insignificance and apathy. There is a reason that people know not where to turn for answers or solutions to the mounting problems before them. There is a reason why people feel utterly and completely powerless in the face of the massive corporate Leviathan that controls their every need. And make no mistake, this is by no means a mere coincidence or act of chance. This is a conscious development by the corporate monolith to size control of ALL facets of human need and desire, from basics like food, shelter and sex, to frivolities like fashion and entertainment. And the powers-that-be have done an outstanding job of it.
We have been convinced through more than 150 years of corporate programming to accept the fact that food comes not from carefully nurtured plots of land, parts of ecosystems, but from corporate supermarkets. We have been convinced that the high tech, “quick return” methods of industrial agriculture are far better than the labor intensive methods of the past 5000 years. We have been convinced that our toilet paper or our latest issue of MRR comes not from a 300 acre clear cut in the Northwest that destroyed a 9,000 year old ecosystem, but from a carefully managed tree farm somewhere in Neverneverland. We have been distracted from noticing that the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breath is loaded with the chemical side effects of industry. We have stood by deaf and dumb while our soil is degraded and eventually killed by a rash of toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically engineered seeds. We have watched desertification spread across every continent as the pain threshold of the Earth is blatantly thrown in our face. We are literally, and undramatically, watching as the very ability of the Earth to sustain life is being threatened by the acts and policies of global capitalism and rampaging nation states. And let’s fess up... unless we do something about it, we are all fucked and only gonna get fucked worse as time goes on and the corporate infrastructure is allowed to further reinforce itself.
Enter the ecopunk fringe. We know beyond any shadow of doubt that industrial civilization is on a kamikaze path of destruction. We have researched, discussed, and analyzed the ways things are, where they are going and how they got be so fucked up. We realize that the only path of liberation and salvation we have is making an unreserved and all out return to the land. We comprehend that the only through resurrecting our ties to the land, our ties to nature and our ties to each other, can we begin re-establishing our autonomy and our liberty. And the first part of actualizing these thoughts is taking back our land from the corporations and bureaucrats that are currently destroying it.
Taking it Back, part 1
The most permanent and sustainable way to take back land from the iron fist of corporate control is to put all the power of property rights behind you and buy it yourself. Now before you start chanting Proudhonist slogans about property being theft and all that shit, think about it. What is better for the Earth and better for us in shedding the corporate yoke of dependency, waiting for a revolution to benevolently distribute land to politically correct collectives, or getting to work becoming self-sufficient in the here and now? What is better, doing it or just talking about it?
Sure, although it is far more difficult to organize tangible, long-term projects like getting land than it is to cower behind vague political slogans or stick with our current obsession with feel good “hobby” activism, it is certainly possible. Those of us in the “First World” are fortunate enough to live in some of the most prosperous nations on Earth. We have the resources, skills, and political stability that make setting up a land trust or collective farm a relatively easily realized possibility. All it takes is a few dedicated people with some vision who are realistic(honest) enough to shed the subcultural deception that denying one’s privilege makes it go away and who are willing to utilize their trust funds, inheritances and gasp, jobs, to help making sustainable projects a reality. Lets face it, we have the resources and rather than pretending that we are all poor squatter crusties in solidarity with the poor of the world, perhaps we should start using our privilege to start changing the world. Imagine what we could achieve if all of our friends with trust funds used their money not for buying beer and records for the next decade (as so many do), but used it as a down payment on a nice hunk of land somewhere. Think about the possibility of an international network of self sufficient punk communities where punks could travel around and learn permaculture, forestry, and conservation skills and then take them back to their own communities in order that we may start sawing away at our chains of dependency. Imagine the power of setting an example and actualizing your politics not by chanting some half-assed slogan, but by having real, tangible evidence to show (like doing Food Not Bombs with corporate infrastructure free veggies you and your crew raised yourselves). Think about how empowering it would feel to say “Fuck the System!!!” and have it mean more than mere rhetoric. And if nothing else, imagine how it would feel to know beyond a doubt, that if shit goes down, you and yours are ready to survive.
Does this sound far off and overly idealistic? Well, it is not. All across the world, from Canada to Chile, from Australia to England, punks and anarchists are establishing long term, sustainable land projects for themselves and their communities. And although the pains and headaches of actually committing to something so long term are definitely present, it sure beats the hell out of perpetuating the cycle of corporate dependency.
In addition, unlike so many people assume, establishing sustainability projects in rural areas is by no means “dropping out” or a signification of the complete abandonment of urban struggles. If we are serious about making change in this world, we need to recognize the validity and necessity of both rural and urban life. First and foremost, there can be no independence or autonomy when people do not have control over the means to their own sustenance (as in cities). Yet at the same time, one of the most significant weaknesses of rural life is the alienation and sense of separation that comes from a lack of interaction with people. Thus, to further reinforce our communities, it would most certainly be wise to nurture a spirit of cooperation and interaction between rural and urban areas. (Which indeed is already in place)
Taking It Back; Part 2
Another, and equally essential, means of taking back the land is interfering with global capital’s plans to liquidate the Earth for its ephemeral financial gain. Since the initial surges of industrialism began almost 200 years ago, certain individuals have recognized the dangers of rampant civilization and acted accordingly. Throughout history, from the Luddites and Levelers of the UK, to the Anti-Monopolists and Radical Grangers of the US, concerned citizens have attempted to derail the corporate machine from its swath of destruction and in-so-doing, have inspired a tradition of resistance that lives onwards today.
In every corner of the world, the hands of corporate power are attempting to seize what little is left of our wildlands in order that they may generate a profit for the next quarter. By utilizing the well greased hands of politicians and bureaucrats, exploiting the financial insecurities of workers, and through the further refinement of misleading propaganda, the corporate infrastructure has managed to legally liquidate more than 95% of the world’s forests, strip mine our deserts, buy out our farms, overgraze our grasslands and generally reduce the land to a raw resource for exploitation and destruction. And although the destruction is occurring on a massive scale across the globe, there is indeed a strong and growing movement to reverse this trend by taking back our lands. For example, in North America, no movement has been as influential in attempting to stop corporate exploitation of the land than Earth First!. And right in the forefront of the Earth First! movement is a dedicated crew of punks, anarchists, and other riff raff that have began turning the movement away from its new age leadership into something more fresh, vibrant and rebellious. Right now, as I sit here typing this, there are tons of direct action campaigns in full swing. In my bioregion, Cascadia, (Northern California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia) 35 miles outside Eugene at the Fall Creek Tree Sit, a crew of ecopunks is finishing their first complete year of squatting 200’ up in 500 year old trees to help keep one of our last stands of ancient forest from being destroyed. Ten miles away, another crew is staging a tree sit in the North Winberry sale. 20 miles further on, yet another crew is working on thwarting the Hell Dunn sale (right next to the famed Warner Creek sale of 1996) from ravaging a pristine old growth forest. In Northern California, people are still carrying the torch of more than a decade of trying to save the ancient Redwoods of the Headwaters forest. In Idaho, the most hardcore group of activists I have ever encountered is gearing up for their eighth year of resistance in trying to prevent the destruction of the largest intact roadless area in the lower 48 states. And the struggle continues at tens of other campaigns.
Throughout all of these campaigns, one can witness the ecopunk spirit as individuals from every margin of the fringe come together to try and preserve the scattered remnants of our wildlands. One can see the rugged tenacity and commitment of punks who live in trees through a cold, wet Oregon winter, literally risking their lives for the land. One can see the steadfast dedication of individuals who day after day are out there, rain, sleet, or federal agents with machine guns, writing timber sale appeals, filing law suits, or locking themselves to bulldozers. One can see the fierce green fire in the eyes of those who have reacquainted themselves with the land and will do anything to ensure that the backbone of all life, the Earth, is not sacrificed in the name of industry and progress.
It is up to us to stand up and tell the forces of industry and commerce to go to hell. It is up to us to draw the proverbial line in the sand and say “No more.” It is up to us to hinder, stall, and kill their plans for the calculated destruction of the land. It is up to us to take back our forests, take back our deserts, take back our oceans, take back our farms, and in-so-doing, take back our lives, our liberty and our autonomy. It is up to us to stop sitting around complaining and playing out the “poor victim” mentality and to start getting to work reclaiming our land and relearning the skills essential for self-sufficiency. It is up to us to make concepts like anarchy, autonomy, liberty, freedom more than just convenient slogans to screen on t-shirts. It is up to us to start living our convictions and asserting our independence from government and corporations.
What you can do.
First and foremost, start educating yourself about your bioregion and your ecosystem. Learn the biological facts that keep your bioregion functioning and fight anything, be it development, logging, or mining, that threatens it. Get together with some friends and buy land. (It really doesn’t take all that much, especially in places like the Midwest and South where property values for good land are around $200 an acre. Just pool together a down payment and finance the piss out of it. My land payment right now for my 50 acres is $150 a month, well with any the means of anyone in Northern Society.) Go out and work in direct action campaigns across the continent; they would love to have you and not only will you have a blast, you’ll also learn more in a month than in four years of college. Come move out here to Cascadia and help us transform a bioregion into a political force. Go hiking. Start growing your own food. Start untangling yourself from the net of corporate rule. Stay aware.
Firescar Ranch Land Trust- A 50 acre anarchist homeland in the mountains of Southern Oregon bordering another 130 acre land trust owned by anarchists. We are working on reforestation, alternative power, sustainable farming, earth house building, and various political issues. Send donations to help keep this a reality or write for more information. (FRLT c/o antipathy po box 11703 eugene, or 97440 email@example.com)
Southern Willamette Earth First!/Cascadia Forest Defenders- Direct action campaigns in the Northwest, including the Fall Creek and North Windberry Treesits. We need your help! (po box 11122 eugene, or 97440. (541) 343-7305 firstname.lastname@example.org. www.igc.org/cascadia)
Cove/Mallard Coalition- Eight years of direct action against the destruction of the largest roadless area in the lower 48 states and perhaps the most bad-ass direct action campaign on the continent. Come see the face of real resistance and have a great time doing it. (po box 8968 Moscow, Id 83483 (208) 882-9755 email@example.com)
North Coast Earth First!- A decade of fighting the destruction of ancient redwoods. (po box 28, Arcata, CA 95518 (707) 839-8974 firstname.lastname@example.org)
Big Woods Earth First!- Keeping up the struggle in Minnesota. (po box 580936 mpls, mn 55458 (612) 362-3387 email@example.com)
The Earth First! Journal - The #1 resource for direct action and all sorts of eco-controversy. (po box 1415 eugene, or 97440)
ASYLUM Gathering- June 11-15, outside eugene, oregon. “An eco-punk/hc/multicountercultural anarchist convergence with a radical environmentalist focus.” Still in need of bands to play and people to lead workshops. Call (541) 302-4447 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Monkeywrench Gang, Hayduke Lives!, Desert Solitaire, etc by Edward Abbey.
- Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.
- The Unsettling of America; Culture and Agriculture. by Wendell Berry
- Dwellers on the Land and Rebels Against the Future by Kirkpatrick Sale
- Confessions of An Ecowarrior. by Dave Foreman
- Refuge and An Unspoken Hunger. Terry Tempest Williams
- The Earth First! Journal
- Paper Tigers ($2 to po box 2945 Tulsa, Ok 74101)
- antipathy ($1.50 to po box 11703 eugene, or 97440)