A Fire in the Belly of the Beast: The Emergence of Revolutionary Environmentalism (part 3 of 3)

Please see: Part 1 Part 2

A sign bearing the letters ELF was found near the towers of KRKO Radio in Everett, about 25 miles north of Seattle in Washington state.

By Steven Best, PhD

While standpoints such as deep ecology, social ecology, ecofeminism,animal liberation, Black liberation, and the ELF are all important, none can accomplish systemic social transformation by itself. Working together, however, through a diversity of critiques and tactics that mobilize different communities, a flank of militant groups and positions can drive a battering ram into the multifaceted structures of power and domination and open the door to a new future.

Thus, revolutionary environmentalism is not a single group, but rather acollective movement rooted in specific tactics and goals (such as just discussed), organized as multi-issue, multiracial alliances that can mount effective opposition to capitalism and other modes of domination. We do not have in mind here a super-movement that embraces all struggles, but rather numerous alliance networks that may form larger collectives with other groups in fluid and dynamic ways, but that ultimately are as global in vision and reach as is transnational capitalism.[1] Although there is diversity in unity, there must also be unity in diversity. Solidarity can emerge in recognition of the fact that all forms of oppression are directly or indirectly related to the values, institutions, and system of global capitalism and related hierarchical structures. To be unified and effective, however, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist alliances require mutual sharing, respectful learning, and growth, such that, for instance, black liberationists, ecofeminists, and animal liberationists can help one another overcome racism, sexism, and speciesism.

“New social movements” and Greens have failed to realize their radical potential. They have abandoned their original demands for radical social change and become integrated into capitalist structures that have eliminated “existing socialist countries” and social democracies as well in a global triumph of neoliberalism. A new revolutionary force must therefore emerge, one that will build on the achievements of classical democratic, libertarian socialist, and anarchist traditions; incorporate radical green, feminist, and indigenous struggles; synthesize animal, earth, and human liberation politics and standpoints; and build a global social-ecological revolution capable of abolishing transnational capitalism so that just and ecological societies can be constructed in its place.

Using This Book

“Another world is possible.” World Social Forum

Similar to our last effort, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (Lantern Books, 2004), we seek in this book to present a rich diversity of voices and perspectives. Thus, we employ a pluralist, multipersectival, interdisciplinary, boundary-transgressing, bridge-building approach, bringing together sundry people and positions that ordinarily never meet. Igniting a Revolution breaks down various walls and boundaries, such as typically exist between academics and activists, scholars and political prisoners (former and current), whites and people of color, men and women, and human and animal rights advocates. This volume features a wide array of critical perspectives on social and environmental issues, ranging from social ecology, deep ecology, Earth First!, ecofeminism, and primitivism to Native Americans, Black liberationists, political prisoners, and animal/Earth liberation movements.

This book was organized according to the principles of radical feminist and anarchist philosophy, in order to give voice to oppressed peoples rather than present yet another selection from the few privileged. In this weighty volume of over forty diverse contributions, we have made a special effort to reach out to and include those activists who still sit in prison for their political “crimes” against the corporate-state complex. Yet because our focus is on people struggling from within the belly of the beast, we do not include those battling corporate ecocide, neo-liberalism, and biopiracy in India, Brazil, Ecuador, Africa, Chiapas, and elsewhere.[2]

An important task of this book – and of revolutionary environmentalism as well – is to decouple environmentalism from white, male, privileged positions; diversify it along class, gender, racial, ethnic, and other lines; and remove it from its single-issue pedestal. Still today, in the u.s. and other western nations, mainstream environmentalism fails to reach out to women, the poor, workers, migrants, and people of color whose immediate problems have more to do with toxic waste and chemical poisoning than a vanishing wilderness, although clearly these are interconnected issues.[3]Yet there are many promising signs in the last three decades and contemporary context whereby the struggles for Earth, animal, and human liberation are being conceived of and fought for as one. From a broad perspective, revolutionary environmentalism is a class, race, gender, and culture war that aims to abolish every system of domination, including that of human beings over nature.

This anthology is divided into seven sections that explore different aspects of the ever-deepening, global social-environmental crisis. Each section begins with a poem by a renowned activist-poet relevant to its general themes, as we close the book with a poetic afterward, and provide an appendix of rarely collected ELF communiqués.

Section I provides historical, philosophical, and political overviews of revolutionary environmentalism, with a focus on deep ecology, social ecology, Earth First!, and the ELF.

Section II reflects on the pathologies of consumerism, the ideologies of mass media, and the politics of everyday life that call into question one’s own complicity in the machines of destruction.

Section III dissects Christianity and orthodox religion from an ecological standpoint, and discusses the importance of spiritual connections among each other and to the Earth from numerous standpoints.

Section IV explores the “anarcho-primitivism” perspective which assails “civilization” as inherently and irredeemably rooted in domination, and thus calls for a return to primal ways of living.

Section V spotlights academics, political prisoners, Black liberationists, and animal liberationists who share personal experiences with state repression and paint a vivid picture of corporate dominated police state such as the u.s., as they also offer hope for continued struggle.

Section VI explores the justifications for sabotage tactics as a much-needed weapon in defense of the Earth, as it also discusses their limitations and advances larger visions for social change.

Section VII examines the commonalities among various oppressed groups and radical struggles, and underscores the need for a broad social/environmental movement for revolutionary change.

Our Goals

Igniting a Revolution is written by and for earth liberationists, animal liberationists, Black liberationists, Native Americans, ecofeminists, political prisoners, primitivists, saboteurs, grassroots activists, and militant academics. It reaches out to exploited workers, indigenous peoples, subsistence farmers, tribes pushed to the brink of extinction, guerilla armies, armed insurgents, disenfranchised youth, and to all others who struggle against the advancing juggernaut of global capitalism, neo-fascism, imperialism, militarism, and phony wars on terrorism that front for attacks on dissent and democracy. This book does not offer analysis or theory for its own sake, it is a political intervention to help spread resistance and change. It is not a haphazard collection of thoughts, but a strategic effort to unite radical struggles in the western world and beyond. It is not a history book, but a book to help make history.

This volume aims to promote thought, provoke anger, stir passion, emphasize commonalities, establish connections, advocate systemic thinking, and, ultimately, to galvanize militant action appropriate to the level of the destruction of the earth and its sundry inhabitants and communities. While the voices in this book speak in different ways on social, political, and environmental issues, together they recognize the insanity, injustice, and unsustainability of the current world order, as they seek profound transformation at many different levels.

Windows of opportunity are closing. The actions that human beings now collectively take or fail to take will determine whether the future is hopeful or bleak. The revolution that this planet desperately needs at this crucial juncture will involve, among other things, a movement to abolish anthropocentrism, speciesism, racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and prejudices and hierarchies of all kinds, while reconstituting social institutions in a form that promotes autonomy, self-determination of nations and peoples, decentralization and democratization of political life, non-market relations, guaranteed rights for humans and animals, an ethics of respect for nature and all life, and the harmonization of the social and natural worlds.

The Earth will survive – indeed, it will regenerate and flourish – without us, but we will not survive without a healthy Earth. Numerous hominid species such as Homo Neanderthalenis have perished because they could not adapt to changing conditions, and countless human civilizations have collapsed for ecological reasons. Clearly, there is no guarantee that Homo sapiens will survive in the near future, as the dystopian visions of films such as Mad Max or Waterworld may actually be realized. Nor is there is any promise that serious forms of revolutionary environmentalism can or will arise, given problems such as the factionalism and egoism that typically tears political groups apart and/or the fierce political repression always directed against resistance movements. Yet as social and ecological situations continue to deteriorate globally, the struggles for ecology and justice may grow ever more radical and intense.

Amidst so many doubts and uncertainties, there is nonetheless no question whatsoever that the quality of the future – if humanity and other imperiled species have one at all – depends on the strength of global resistance movements and the possibilities for revolutionary change.

May this collection of readings help blaze the trail forward and ignite this revolution. We invite you to read, reflect, resist, and revolt.


[1] In 1996, for instance, the Zapatistas organized a global “encuentro” during which over 3,000 grassroots activists and intellectuals from 42 countries assembled to discuss strategies for a worldwide struggle against neoliberalism. In response to the Zapatista’s call for an “intercontinental network of resistance, recognizing differences and acknowledging similarities,” the People’s Global Action Network was formed, a group explicitly committed to anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and ecological positions (see http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/en/index.htm). For more examples of global politics and networks that report on news, actions, and campaigns from around the world, and cover human rights, animal rights, and environmental struggles, see One World (http://www.oneworld.net/), Protest.Net (http://www.protest.net/), and Indymedia (http://www.indymedia.org/en/index.shtml).

[2] For some of the works chronicling the ecological and political battles in other areas of the world, see Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search For a Livable World; Richard Peet and Michael Watts (eds.),Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements (London: Routledge, 1996); Bron Taylor (ed.), Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism; and Chapter 8 in Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement.

[3] For an attempt to forge a grassroots alliance politics that links environmental justice with broad social concerns, developing an anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-authoritarian, feminist, queer and trans-liberationist movement against global capitalism, see the “Colours of Resistance” group at http://colours.mahost.org/. Also see the race-based critiques of Shellenberger and Nordhaus in footnote 15 above (footnote 1 Page 2).

Dr. Steven Best is NIO’s Senior Editor of Total Liberation.  Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Dr. Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 booksover 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under frequent fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to Russia to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis(See Dr. Best’s Complete Biography)

source: http://negotiationisover.com/2010/01/17/a-fire-in-the-belly-of-the-beast-the-emergence-of-revolutionary-environmentalism-part-3-of-3/

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3 Responses to “A Fire in the Belly of the Beast: The Emergence of Revolutionary Environmentalism (part 3 of 3)”

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