Earth First! Common sense last!

We say: The actions of radical groups such as Earth First! are founded in self-righteousness, not desire for realistic social change

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Jul. 16, 2007 


Last week, radical environmentalists/anarchists from the Earth First! movement vandalized One City Center, a downtown building housing the I-69 planning offices, by painting and chalking the area with anti-interstate, pro-environment slogans. They had marched out of the Earth First! “rendezvous point” in the forests of nearby Spencer, Ind., to voice their opposition to the controversial road. According to its mission statement, Earth First! is a group for environmentalists fed up with the “lethargic, compromising and increasingly corporate environmental community.”

Every activist faces the same dilemma: either stand unwaveringly for a cause and thus alienate those less passionate, or compromise and water down the cause in order to appeal to a broader base of people. Radical environmentalists sech as Earth First! oppose such a compromise of their ideas and employ any means – legally or illegally – to acquire their ends.

Admittedly, red paint and shoe polish scrawled on Bloomington’s regional I-69 coordinator’s office isn’t exactly illegal “extremism.” Blowing up Gov. Mitch Daniels’ mansion would have been extreme. But the actions of Earth First! still alienated many of Bloomington’s residents.

Those who saw the protest in action commented on the attire of the activists. Their appearance connotes extremism to the general population just as much as their actions. And because people identify this group as full of hippies, anarchists or radical counterculturists, their demands are not taken seriously by the public or by politicians.

Though the group claims to represent the 94 percent of Indiana residents who oppose the road, the obviously fake statistic more accurately shows how delusional and separated from the mainstream opinion these ecoterrorists are.

The principles of the land dictate groups like Earth First! have every right to exist. They fill the void of issues not addressed by government agencies and lobbying groups. But paradoxically, these groups also will not be accepted precisely because of their method of expression. This is partly the fault of a government that ignores non-governmental and grassroots organizations.

But it is also the fault of extremist groups who have no intention of attracting the larger public. There are procedures in place to avoid this sort of chaos, and disrespecting them only serves to depreciate the position Earth First! is propagating. When young people enter a radical group such as Earth First!, they close themselves off from effective options for social change.

By refusing to compromise, they gain a type of moral superiority over other more moderate, system-ingratiated groups. It is moral self-righteousness, not a desire for realistic social change, that propels the actions of groups such as Earth First!.

Unfortunately, while selling out is often more effective, it’s never glamorous. Radical groups who don’t sell out attract idealists drawn to unadulterated truth, a truth to which the pragmatism of government agencies and moderate grassroots groups cannot pretend to aspire.


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