The Center for Grassroots Oversight

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Profile: Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey was a participant or observer in the following events:

Original Earth First! logo, featuring a crossed tomahawk and wrench.Original Earth First! logo, featuring a crossed tomahawk and wrench. [Source: Feelnumb (.com)]Dave Foreman, a former lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, and several other environmental activists form Earth First!, an organization established, in its words, “in response to a lethargic, compromising, and increasingly corporate environmental community.” Earth First! combines environmental activism with a form of spirituality called “deep ecology.” Activists for the group carry out such actions as tree-sitting (sitting in or near a tree to prevent loggers from cutting it down) and tree spiking, which involves hammering a long nail that can create shrapnel injuries when cut by logging tools such as a chainsaw. In his 1985 book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, Foreman describes in detail a number of sabotage methodologies, from disabling logging and earthmoving equipment to the proper way to spike a tree. (“Monkeywrenching” is a term borrowed from the 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey, which depicts characters destroying machinery and burning billboards across the Southwest; Abbey will contribute an introduction to a later edition of Foreman’s book.) Foreman leaves the group in 1989 after being arrested for conspiracy to sabotage a nuclear plant. As of 2005, Earth First! is still active, but operates mainly through its publication, the Earth First! Journal, which publicizes other radical environmental and animal rights groups. After the group begins using more moderate actions to protest environmental depredations, activists who prefer more direct action will gravitate to the Earth Liberation Front (see 1997). (Beirich and Moser 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League 2005)


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