EcoPunk #68: Somewhere Between Defeat...

this was an alternate column that was not printed.

Somewhere Between Defeat and Surrender

    A cold mist snuck slowly through the dark wood; an ethereal tide of white slipping between trees and over ferns and under blowdowns towards some unspoken destination.  The Forest was still dark, illuminated by its own subtle phosphorescence and the few stars who linger around so close to the Dawn. It was still the time of the night spirits and other nocturnal creatures. A spotted owl beckoned its words of warning into the Night. Nothing in the obscured forest answered and the owl repeated itself.
    I stood up out of my sleeping bag and felt the night air creep around my naked body. Cold, moist, reassuring, like a mother's hands undressing a child on a winter afternoon. As the voices and images of my dreams faded into my current location, a hardseated lump of humility dropped into my guts. Before me, behind me, all around me was one of the last 1% of temperate rainforests left in North America, one of the last places where history and evolution coexisted in biological perfection. Douglas Firs, Western Hemlocks and Red Cedars stood stoic and proud, their seven and eight foot thick bodies rising 250' to the sky. These are the great grandchildren a hundred times over of the tall woody plants that first colonized this Cascade Range some 70 million years ago. From a fiery tempest of volcanism to an ancient forest in but a blink of a geological eye, Nature has a knack for making a fella feel puny and ephemeral. It is upon the lignin filled cellulose backs of these giants that all life in this region rested and upon these bodies that depended the precarious meteorological phenomena responsible for putting some of the largest living things on Earth here in this corner of Oregon. My head bowed respectfully out of a humble sense of unimportance. At the same time, a sense of anxiety swelled in my guts, a sense of sadness around my heart. Although at night the ancient trees felt like trees and told tree stories and sang tree songs and talked to their neighbors through grafted roots and invisible chemical dusts, daylight would shatter the precarious harmony. As the rising sun shone its light over Mt. Thielsen, the keen eye would note lines of blue ringing the trees, with matching dots four inches off the ground finishing a keen design pattern. As the sun rose higher and light filled the cathedral, one would notice funny patterns of blued trees inside imaginary lines marked by 4x6" tags of yellow paper. Trees enjoy these blue marks just as humyns enjoy being diagnosed with cancer. Premature death and mutilation aren't fun for any living things.

    I was standing in the middle of what soft handed bureaucrats in institutional meccas like Washington, Portland and Roseburg call a "Regeneration Harvest Prescription Area," what ten or even five years ago would have been called a clearcut. This was a replacement volume sale for a timber company that lost some valuable boardfootage thanks to some ungrateful endangered species or lawsuit. Being the good socialist Soviet styled bureaucracy it is, the USDA FOREST SERVICE bent over backwards to provide more sensitive ecosystems for the insatiable jaws of the industrial timber beast, drawing up this sale, sliding through a horribly lacking Environmental Assessment (the paperwork they do when they don't think anyone cares about a timber sale), and getting the final nod on it in less than a year. And come 4:30 am on June 16, 2001(the day after the Spotted Owl nesting season is "over"), the carnage would begin.   
    Crews of men in yellow trucks will show up before the sunrise and begin the precise operation of falling the trees in a nice even lay so the skidders can more easily yank their fallen bodies out to a landing where they will be loaded on trucks and driven to the mill. Chills shoot up and down my spine when I think of the scene. Serenity broken by the whine of saws, the hollow knocks of wedges being slammed into backcuts, the creak and snaps of the doomed trees as they lean and break through the hinge wood left by the skilled hands of man. The ripping sound as the trees fall through the bodies of their neighbors breaking branches and small trees alike. The ground shaking thud as the 12 ton body hits soil. Then, silence. A heart wrenching silence of death and injustice. A silence full of invisible tears. After the bodies are bucked up to length, men in big yellow tractors will come. Thick steel cables will be fastened to the logs by the lowest men on the logging show totem. These cables will be hooked onto a winch line and pulled in close enough for the tractor to drag the logs out to the road. Soil, plant and animal alike will be ripped and shoved and mangled and buried alive as de facto roads are carved out of what only hours earlier was a forest older than Jesus, Ahura Mazda or even the guys in Poison Idea. In the end, once all the valuable trees are sitting in the Roseburg Forest Products yard, big bulldozers will come and push the brush and broken limbs and unwanted tree parts into big piles. The summer sun will beat down and bake the compacted soil into semi-impermeable sheets, marred by the footprints of heavy machinery. Come October, when the infamous Northwest rains arrive, the soil will wash down into streams helping push the already endangered salmon and trout populations two steps closer to extinction.

    A heavy beating of wings woke me from my dark thoughts. A gray figure half my height with wings as large as I am tall blasted through the understory, taking roost on a barkless Fir snag a dozen feet from where I stood. His dark eyes stared down at me with a sense of stoicism that I have only seen on the faces of death row inmates and the survivors of genocide. I stared back, my heart surging with rage. Three weeks from now, this owl would be dead or forcibly relocated to one of the scattered pockets of "Late Successional Reserve" (The Forest (dis)Service's word for old growth forests). Our eyes remained locked. My hands trembled. Some say that people who communicate with animals and trees are crazy. Those people have never spent an afternoon away from their Christian ego in an old growth forest. Those people have never stood naked at night with a massive Great Grey Owl while conversation bantered back and forth through that massive commonality that binds us to all of Nature; LIFE.  After a half hour or so of staring, I got cold and crawled back in my sleeping bag. The owl scrunched down and closed its eyes.
    All across my bioregion, from the Southern tip of the Willamette Valley to the Salmon River, from the Coast Range to the Ponderosa Pine forests of the Cascade Rainshadow, there is a war raging in the woods. A war pitting all the nastiest forces of Capitalism, Imperialism, Judeo-Christian Industrialism, Neoliberalism, and Militarism against what few shreds of Wilderness exist on this continent, or any other for that matter. The forest management practices utilized by the USDA Forest Service and its cronies (Boise-Cascade, Weyerhauser, Plum Creek, RFP, LP, GP, PL, ad nauseum), are not the singular consequence of efficient forestry. They are a well planned, well executed conspiracy to destroy Nature and replace it with more easily exploited plantations of living things. They are part of a well planned conspiracy that will help feed the fires of transnational capital while simultaneously breaking Nature over their knee. These clearcuts will be replanted with genetically modified versions of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir and sprayed with Ranger(tm) herbicide to keep any pesky wild plants from competing with their "crops"(thanks Monsanto!). The tidy machine of industrial capitalism will absorb the million or so board feet of timber in a highly wasteful system of processing, sale and distribution which will give kickbacks to its co-conspirators in shipping, manufacturing, chemistry, import-export, development, etc.  Through the lies of the American Dream, the bastards can "show" the American people that these forests weren't massacred for fun, but to provide them, the patriotic consumer citizens, with a bull market, testosterone laced economy and the millions of new things required to keep so weak and petulant a people "happy."
    Meanwhile, back in the battlefields, my friends the owl and the fisher and the murrlet and the snail and mychorizzae fungus and the 800 year old tree are staring death right in the face. They, and the few disfunctional slaves like myself and my family who find the Wild an essential escape from the lies and dysfunction of human death culture, are on the underdog side of the battle. Though in numbers, passion and spirit we are far more and far stronger than our opponents, our enemies have the weapons of mass destruction. They have armies of slave labor armed with chainsaws and chokers. They have the D-9 cats and hydraulic grapple skidders, They have the $900,000 loaders and fleets of Kenworth and Peterbuilt log trucks. They have the barges and tugs and ties to the international financial market. They have the rule of law and all the might of the largest military power in the world, just in case any of us critters try to get in the way.
    Strong as they might be, they are not invincible. Like the Viet-Kong and Apache before us, a little ingenuity and a lot of dedication just might drive a stake into the rotten heart of our enemies. Unfortunately, the War is now. All across the West, from Montana to Oregon, from British Columbia to California, the forces are invading our few remaining Wild areas. Small groups of runaway slaves and feral humyns have taken to the woods in last ditch efforts to stop the War, but we need your help. Come join us in defense of the Wild! Aside from being a very real part of the most important resistance on Earth, you'll make friends, develop new skills and learn more in a week than four years at college could ever teach you. And besides, once you feel the power of an ancient forest or pristine desert, you'll never be the same again. Never. (Check the Earth First! Journal for updates on what's happening where or drop me an email or phone call!)
In pursuit of Love, Wisdom and Peace

mike antipathy
pob 11703 , eugene, oregon 97440 • (541) 821-6248

PS- In these times, never let us forget our brothers and sisters who can't be by our sides. Free, Rob, Karen, Dan, Critter, Chris, Harold and the rest of our family behind bars, we love you all.