I’m sprinting up the state forest road as fast as I can, but I find myself heaving breaths after two sleepless days. Up the way a friend shouts “FLIP THE VAN!” Half of me wants to stop it from being flipped; the other half really wants to push it over. Still running, I don’t get there in time to decide. The van crashes onto its side, battery cables still connected. The flying sparks that follow are at best, terrifying. At worst, they can burn down the whole forest we are here to protect.
A group of Earth First!ers have spent the past week in the forest building relationships, building skills and plotting how to protect Cascadia. It’s 2009 and I’m at the Round River Rendezvous, the annual gathering of the radical ecological movement, where we sing acoustic metal songs, share wine, climb trees, go swimming, argue, wrestle, share skills and make love. By the end of the week a plan is completed to block a logging road leading to an active timber sale. The idea has been in the works for months but this event has brought the dream team together to make it happen. People from all levels of experience spend the night before building an impressive and technical road blockade, but when the loggers show up at 5 AM, it isn’t finished. As the loggers leave to call the cops, an old, nearly dead and potentially explosive van is suddenly built into the blockade. Electrical fires extinguished, the insta-blockade buys us time to complete the plan. The ‘Free State’ blockade and tree sit held for days, stopping logging, gaining national media attention. Activists have spent much time picking apart the lessons learned from this action. For all of its problems (like romanticizing flashy tactics over strategy), the event was instrumental in spawning a new generation of the now thriving radical ecological movement in Cascadia.
But the radical environmental movement is not just about actions. In order to have a sustainable movement, we must have a culture of resistance. Building and sustaining this culture is at the core of the tradition of the Earth First! Rendezvous. For five days in June activists from across our bioregion will come together to celebrate our victories, mourn our losses and prepare for future actions and campaigns with friends, new and old. The ‘Night to Howl’ will be Friday the 22nd where Earth First!ers share their talents from acoustic metal to theater to poetry to folk songs. Workshops focusing on movement skills such as Direct Action, Campaign Strategy, Theater of the Oppressed and many more will happen from Thursday to Saturday. Throughout the week, childcare will be provided by parents and trusted caregivers. There will also be a child track with workshops geared for the youngest activists will help grow our movement. Campfire stories of past campaigns from movement elders will fight the forgetting that capitalist culture would prefer. Building a community of mutual aid and self-reliance, we ask folks to come prepared to camp in the coastal rainforest for a week, or any part they can attend. “There is no registration and no fee. Instead the communal kitchen is powered by donations and activists who attend the gathering take turns doing security shifts, drinking water runs, taking care of shitters, mediating conflicts and all of the roles it takes to ensure an empowering experience. Earth First! prides itself on reclaiming space in threatened places while mitigating the impact our presence has on the ecosystem by practicing leave-no-trace-ethics. But this ethic, inspired by a biocentric view of the world, must extend to our human communities.
While in the past our movement has been rich in the understanding of the oppression that affects the earth and living creatures, it has often neglected to prioritize addressing the ways this same oppression intersects with the patriarchy and other systems of domination we deal with in our human communities. Now, as our movement turns thirty, we recognize and hold at the core of our gatherings the need to create a safe(r) space for our community to grow. A strong anti-oppression policy and more importantly anti-oppression culture is alive in the radical ecological movement. We are holding the regional rendezvous to practice a culture of allyship to our bioregion and to each other. This is your invitation to join this rich tradition of environmental activism. Come be a part of this year’s Cascadia Regional Earth First! Rendezvous June 20-25 in a forest west of Portland. We are all part of the new Earth First! movement. We recognize that the oppression felt by workers, women, foreclosed homeowners, queers, immigrants, and people of color is oppression that seeks to destroy the health of our human communities. It is the same oppression and same oppressors that seek to destroy the health of the plant and animal communities that give us life.
Together, at the regional Rendezvous this June, we will transform that awareness into skills for action. Then, after a week of strengthening our culture of resistance, we will act to stop the giveaway of Cascadia’s resources to the 1%, to Big Coal, Big Timber, Big Energy.
The post-rondy action is traditionally the culmination of our week of resistance building. This year it will take place on June 25th. All are invited and no one has to risk arrest, but we do encourage folks to stick around to put into practice the skills we gain and generate stories to sustain us as we work in the defense of mother earth. To get involved in planning, food prep, site prep or Earth First! in general email: cascadiarondy2012 [at] hushmail [dot] com or go to www.Cascadia2012.com.