by Edward Abbey
If a stranger batters your door down with an axe, threatens your family and yourself with deadly weapons, and proceeds to loot your home of whatever he wants, he is committing what is universally recognized — by law and morality — as a crime. In such a situation the householder has both the right and the obligation to defend himself, his family, and his property by whatever means are necessary. This right and this obligation is universally recognized, justified and even praised by all civilized human communities. Self-defense against attack is one of the basic laws not only of human society but of life itself, not only of human life but of all life.
The American wilderness, what little remains, is now undergoing exactly such an assault. Dave Foreman has summarized the character and scale of the assault in the first chapter of this excellent and essential book. With bulldozer, earth mover, chainsaw and dynamite the international timber, mining and beef industries are invading our public lands — property of all Americans — bashing their way into our forests, mountains and rangelands and looting them for everything they can get away with. This for the sake of short-term profits in the corporate sector and multi-million dollar annual salaries for the three-piece-suited gangsters (M.B.A., Harvard, Yale, University of Tokyo, et alia) who control and manage these bandit enterprises. Cheered on, naturally, by Time, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal, actively encouraged by those jellyfish Government agencies which are supposed to protect the public lands, and as always aided and abetted in every way possible by the quisling politicians of our Western states (such as Babbitt, DeConcini, Goldwater, Hatch, Garn, Symms, Hansen, Wallop, Domenici — to name but a few) who would sell the graves of their own mothers if there’s a quick buck in the deal, over or under the table, what do they care.
Representative democracy in the United States has broken down. Our legislators do not represent those who elected them but rather the minority who finance their political campaigns and who control the organs of communication — the Tee Vee, the newspapers, the billboards, the radio — that have made politics a game for the rich only. Representative government in the USA represents money not people and therefore has forfeited our allegiance and moral support. We owe it nothing but the taxation it extorts from us under threats of seizure of property, or prison, or in some cases already, when resisted, a sudden and violent death by gunfire.
Such is the nature and structure of the industrial megamachine (in Lewis Mumford’s term) which is now attacking the American wilderness. That wilderness is our ancestral home, the primordial homeland of all living creatures including the human, and the present final dwelling place of such noble beings as the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the eagle and the condor, the moose and the elk and the pronghorn antelope, the redwood tree, the yellowpine, the bristlecone pine, even the aspen, and yes, why not say it?, the streams, waterfalls, rivers, the very bedrock itself of our hills, canyons, deserts, mountains.
For many of us, perhaps for most of us, the wilderness is as much our home, or a lot more so, than the wretched little stucco boxes, plywood apartments, and wallboard condominiums in which we are mostly confined by the insatiable demands of an overcrowded and ever-expanding industrial culture. And if the wilderness is our true home, and if it is threatened with invasion, pillage and destruction — as it certainly is — then we have the right to defend that home, as we would our private rooms, by whatever means are necessary. (An Englishman’s home is his castle; an American’s home is his favorite fishing stream, his favorite mountain range, his favorite desert canyon, his favorite swamp or patch of woods or God-created lake.)
The majority of the American people have demonstrated on every possible occasion that they support the ideal of wilderness preservation; even our politicians are forced by popular opinion to pretend to support the idea; as they have learned, a vote against wilderness is a vote against their own re-election. We are justified in defending our homes — our private home and public home — not only by common law and common morality but also by common belief. We are the majority; they — the greedy and powerful — are the minority.
How best defend our wilderness home? Well, that is a matter of strategy, tactics and technique, which is what this little book is about. Dave Foreman explains the principles of ecological defense in the complete, compact and conclusive pages of his short introduction. I can think of nothing I could add nor of anything I would subtract; he says exactly what needs to be said, no more and no less.
I am happy to endorse the publication of Ecodefense. Never was such a book so needed, by so many, for such good reason, as here and now. Tomorrow might well be too late. This is a book that will fit handily in any saddlebag, in any creel, in any backpack, in any river runner’s ammo can — and in any picnicker’s picnic basket. No good American should ever go into the woods again without this book and, for example, a hammer and a few pounds of 60-penny nails. Spike a few trees now and then whenever you enter an area condemned to chainsaw massacre by Louisiana Pacific and its affiliated subsidiary the U.S. Forest Service. You won’t hurt the trees; they’ll be grateful for the protection; and you may save the forest. My Aunt Emma back in West Virginia has been enjoying this pleasant exercise for years. She swears by it. It’s good for the trees, it’s good for the woods, it’s good for the earth, and it’s good for the human soul. Spread the word-and carry on!
Chapter 1: Strategic Monkeywrenching
By Dave Foreman…
This book is dedicated to:
Edward Abbey 1927–1989
John Zaelit (Mr. Goodwrench) 1954–1986
Bill Turk (The Mad Engineer) 1953–1992
Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders
Introduction to the Third Edition
Ecodefense is a historical artifact. It be argued that it is the most controversial environmental book ever published; more importantly, though, it is a key exhibit in the legal history of freedom of the press in the United States. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1791. It reads in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That enshrined freedom of the press and speech sets the United States of America apart from all other nations. No other country so jealously defends the right of its citizens to speak and publish controversial ideas.
Several years ago when Australia banned the importation and sale of Ecodefense, it was not possible for the United States to follow suit — because of the First Amendment. Instead, the United States government spent several million dollars, employed a small army of FBI agents, and entrapped a number of citizens in 1987–89 in an effort to suppress publication and distribution of Ecodefense. That attack on free speech and the freedom of the press glares like a pustulating boil in American history just as do the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, and McCarthyism.
We at Abbzug Press believe that the Bill of Rights is like a set of muscles — if they aren’t exercised, they atrophy. Therefore, it is our patriotic duty to defend the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and publish a new Third Edition of Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.
Efforts to suppress Ecodefense and to entrap its co-editor, Dave Foreman, have been well covered elsewhere and we will not go into them here. Nor will we here attempt to justify the practice or necessity of monkeywrenching. Edward Abbey’s Forward! and the first two chapters of this edition do that. Monkeywrenching is also justified in Ed Abbey’s novels The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives!, Howie Wolke’s Wilderness on the Rocks, Christopher Manes’s Green Rage, and, in greater detail, Dave Foreman’s Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.
We will here, however, rebut two myths about Ecodefense. First, it is widely believed that Ecodefense (or Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang) launched the practice of monkeywrenching. In fact, ecological sabotage was widespread before Ecodefense was first published in 1985 and even before The Monkey Wrench Gang was published in 1975.
The second myth is that Dave Foreman wrote Ecodefense. The first edition of Ecodefense was a compilation of articles and letters sent to the Earth First! Journal by dozens of individuals. This Third Edition has over two dozen major contributors and at least one hundred other contributors. In this edition, we have given aliases to credit all articles and significant field notes where the author did not offer her own alias. In the previous editions, Dave Foreman and Bill Haywood compiled, edited, and arranged the contributions. We have retained their names as editors for the Third Edition since it is largely based on the previous editions.
There are changes in the Third Edition, however. Some material deemed to be irrelevant or counterproductive has been dropped. Incorrect information has also been dropped. Much new information has been incorporated. Most of it was contributed between 1987 and 1989. A professional editor was retained to rewrite, copy edit, arrange, and otherwise clean up all of the text. Some previous material has been rearranged.
Edward Abbey and two other contributors, John Zaelit and Bill Turk, have died since the First Edition of Ecodefense. This Third Edition is dedicated to their memories and to the fierce green fire that burned in their eyes. They were heroes, defenders of their native land.
We thank the other defenders of the land who contributed to Ecodefense, though they must remain anonymous. It is their book.
When we began work on the Third Edition we asked Dave Foreman for any thoughts he might offer to today’s reader of Ecodefense. He responded:
Is your act a strategic one, or is it merely an inarticulate yell, conveying only rage, alienation, and despair? Monkeywrenchers must constantly ask themselves:
Who is my audience?
What is my message?
Will this deter destruction?
Are there legal means not yet used?
Of course this Third Edition of Ecodefense, like those before it, is meant only to entertain. No one should take it seriously.
— Matthew Lyon for Abbzug Press