Masters Thesis

Earth First!: the rise of eco-action

This thesis examines the change in Earth First! praxis elaborated by North Coast Earth First! (in Northern California) from 1985-1990 in order to identify how Judi Bari’s theory of “revolutionary ecology” emerged as political force from within a movement founded upon wilderness preservationism and the exclusion of people from nature, creating space for alliances between environmental activists and timber workers to emerge and exposing an emerging politics of encounter underway in the North Coast. Assessments of Earth First! typically focus on its proliferation of direct action interventions against industrial destruction and Judi Bari’s leadership in diverging from traditional EF! wilderness preservationism, most notably her attempts to build alliances between EF! activists and timber workers. To date, scholars have failed to assess how the structural formation of EF! as a decentralized anti-authoritarian non-organization has facilitated not only the proliferation of direct action interventions against industrial destruction, but also a highly reflexive radical environmental praxis. I argue that the shift toward what Jonathan London has termed a “post-wilderness environmentalism” was fostered by a “culture of anarchism” combined with an emergent “politics of encounter” operating within the larger Earth First! movement. The thesis elaborates a better understanding of Earth First! organizational structure, movement agenda, and cognitive praxis, highlighting open membership, oppositional systems of information, insurgent learning spaces, and commitments to anti-authoritarian politics as critical to an innovative radical environmental praxis.