Originally published in: The Nanaimo Times
Nanaimo, British Columbia June 20, 1995, A7
Copyright (c) 1995 by Kim Goldberg All Rights Reserved by Author (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Activist Judi Bari's story highlights risks faced by leaders of environmental movement
A review of Judi Bari's book Timber Wars
by Kim Goldberg
Nanaimo Times columnist
Consider these three quotes:
"Today the greatest threat to you, to me, to our communities, to our state and to our nation is no longer communism, it's not drugs, not AIDS, not crime, not poverty, not even liberal Democrats, but radical environmentalism." --Bill Holmes, former member of California State Board of Forestry, 1991
"If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used." --James Watt, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 1990
"We're out to kill the f---ers. We're simply trying to eliminate them. Our goal is to destroy environmentalism once and for all." --Ron Arnold, founder of the Wise Use Movement and executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, 1992
It ain't easy being an environmentalist these days. Exercising such constitutionally guaranteed liberties as free speech, free assembly and political dissent on behalf of the planet is costing people their jobs, homes, pets, health and even lives.
Way back in 1992, the San Francisco-based Center for Investigative Reporting had logged more than 100 attacks on U.S. environmentalists, including 12 arsons, 16 physical assaults, 8 instances of gunfire and 21 death threats.
Canadian activists are not exempt from the anti-democratic backlash against environmentalism. The tentacles of the pernicious Wise Use Movement extend well into this country, generating a hit list of victims stretching from Clayoquot Sound to the Temagami wilderness in northeastern Ontario.
But by far the most notorious assault on a North American environmentalist was the 1990 car-bombing of non-violent activist and labor organizer Judi Bari in Oakland, California, while she was organizing a mass demonstration to save the redwoods. (Redwood Summer 1990, modeled after the 1964 civil rights actions of Mississippi Summer, ultimately became the template for Clayoquot Summer 1993, which saw police arrest more than 800 men, women and children for defending the ancient forests of Clayoquot Sound.)
Mainstream media have largely ignored the story except for the initial hours and days after the bombing when the Oakland police, at the FBI's behest, arrested Bari in her hospital bed for allegedly bombing herself.
The accusation was eventually dropped due to a total lack of evidence. And police photos of the crime scene released three years later unequivocally establish that the FBI lied about the placement of the bomb in the car. But the press was no longer interested.
Fortunately, Common Courage Press in Maine was. Last fall they brought out Bari's book Timber Wars, a collection of 39 essays and interviews Bari wrote and gave during her lengthy convalescence from her crippling injuries.
Arranged chronologically, the writings reveal Bari's increasing awareness of the magnitude of the forces lined up against her. Five thousand pages of FBI files released to Bari and her lawyer (who are now suing the FBI) indicate that Bari and Earth First! have been the targets of the same predatory Cointelpro (Counter-intelligence program) that the FBI used against political dissidents of earlier periods including the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement, anti-Vietnam war movement and Puerto Rican independence movement.
In one essay we learn that the string of death threats against Bari began immediately after she lead a coalition of Louisiana-Pacific millworkers and environmentalists into a county board of supervisors meeting and demanded that the county exercise its power of eminent domain to seize L-P's timberlands and operate them in the public interest. One month later she was bombed.
For those who want to know more about this much suppressed story and the environmental struggle behind it, Timber Wars is a satisfying and informative read. Bari writes with simplicity, intelligence and a sardonic wit that not even a pipe bomb can extinguish.
Timber Wars is available through local bookstores.
(Ed. Note: A link to Common Courage Press is available on the Judi Bari Home Page.)
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