Earth First’s Fight to Save the Redwoods

In 1990, Earth First! and the International Workers of the World (IWW) initiated Redwood Summer in northern California to fight for old-growth redwood trees slated for logging and for timber jobs. Founded in 1981, the Earth First! movement espoused ideals of direct action and Deep Ecology. Redwood Summer marked a turning point in the movement as Judi Bari assumed de facto leadership its West Coast groups, denouncing the controversial tree-spiking tactic, disavowing monkey wrenching (the destruction of industrial or logging equipment) in favor of non-violent civil disobedience, and forging an alliance with IWW to unite lumber workers and environmentalists. On 24 May 1990 Bari’s car was bombed, escalating the conflict, swelling the ranks of activists, and prompting the FBI to arrest several Earth First! leaders. Although the summer of civil disobedience was marked by violent escalation and FBI infiltration and precipitated a divide in the Earth First! radical environmental organization, it was instrumental in bringing awareness to the issue of old-growth forest logging and prompting increased participation in non-violent civil disobedience to preserve the environment.

Contributed by Gregory Hitch
Course: Modern Global Environmental History
Instructor: Dr. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg
University of Wisconsin–Madison, US

Further Readings: 
  • Bari, Judi. Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology. Melville: Trees Foundation, 1998.
  • Foreman, Dave. Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.
  • Bari, Judi. Timber Wars. Monroe: Common Courage Press, 1994.
  • Shantz, Jeffery, and Barry D. Adam. “Ecology and Class: The Green Syndicalism of IWW/Earth First Local 1.” The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 19 no. 7/8 (1999): 43–72.