Category Archives: Environment

Auntie Civ: How to bring it down and why

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Meet Auntie Civ, the world’s first anti-civilization advice columnist!
April 18, 2009

Hi kids, it’s your Auntie Civ here. I want to say you all deserve a huge shout-out for your amazing efforts! It’s hard work, challenging the stifling conventions of this destructive society, not to mention preparing for the collapse of civilization (and even helping it along a bit!) I’m moved by the passion and resourcefulness and dedication of the happy bands of ruffians diving in dumpsters, hopping trains, and living in the woods. The sheer exuberance of these semi-feral young people puts a song in my cynical old heart.

Now, I can’t hop trains anymore because of the arthritis, but I can help in other ways. I’ve learned a few things over the decades and I’d like others to benefit from my experience. There’s a lot at stake, and I know the struggle can be overwhelming for even the bravest soul. Please, get it off your chest. Ask Auntie Civ anything — whether it’s free advice, anti-civilization insights, or funny stories from the bad old days, I’ll reply to everyone and post the best questions and answers here.

But first, a little note about common sense: don’t send Auntie Civ any details about actions you may be thinking of doing, or details about actions you already did, or theories about who might be doing what. (Here’s a nice little essay about security culture – very educational!) Also, my opinions are my own (unless I’m quoting an expert) and I expect those who disagree to follow the time-honored tradition of flaming my fat ass. So bring it on, you young whippersnappers!

Love, Auntie Civ
XOXOXO

(Disclaimer: Advice given is for entertainment purposes only. Void where prohibited by law.)

Dear Auntie Civ,

How do you propose to bring down ‘civilization as we know it?’

Remarcus

Dear Remarcus,

Great question! It reminds me of a joke that’s been around since the Roman Empire. A soldier brags that he’s going to kill an elephant and eat the whole thing — by himself. The other soldiers scoff at him. “How can you eat an elephant?” one asks. “Simple,” says the first soldier. “One bite at a time.”

Rome didn’t fall in a day, and none of us can bring down civilization all at once. What we can do is help it along a bit by greasing the skids, fighting to preserve those parts of Mother Nature that are still intact, and monkeywrenching the forces of destruction.

I can hear you asking, “But how do you do that?” Well, here’s some examples.

  • Challenge timber sales
  • Blockade logging roads
  • Stop local governments from adopting development plans
  • Support First Nations land claims
  • Sabotage the careers of pro-development politicians
  • Take the bastards to court
  • Tear down flagging tape
  • Uproot survey stakes
  • Shoot out electrical transformers
  • Cut fibre-optic cables
  • Destroy earth-wrecking machines
  • Hack the computer systems of earth-wrecking companies

Years ago, when I ran around with a posse, we made a conscious decision that we were on side with anything that slowed down the destruction, or stopped it even for a minute, or cost the company money, or exposed it to public embarrassment and drove down its market share. As long as no one got hurt. And you know what? We won. It was like a death from a thousand cuts, and you better believe when Goliath hit the ground, the shock wave reached all the way to Ottawa.

Dear Auntie Civ,

Is it possible for the Earth to feed 6 billion people without civilization? I’m worried that if we all go live in the woods at once and use hunting or slash and burn farming to feed ourselves we’ll destroy nature.

Bacchus

Dear Bacchus,

It isn’t possible to feed 6 billion people right now, with civilization. That’s why millions of people are starving. That’s why more and more desperate, hungry people are resorting to slash-and-burn farming and destroying nature to feed themselves. Much of the best farmland has already been ruined by agricultural chemicals or paved over for subdivisions. Much of what’s left will be devastated by climate change and drought. This is happening now, because of civilization.

You see, we’ve exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. It’s horrifying to contemplate a future in which hundreds of millions more will die for lack of food, clean water, medicine, transportation, heat, air conditioning, and so on. I’ve thought about it a great deal, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the fight to defend and restore the land and water is the only sane response to the crisis we face.

All my love,

Auntie Civ
XOXOXO

Send your questions to auntieciv (at) gmail.com.

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Land-Use “Bullies” Put On Notice

Update: Langford’s mayor has given in and scheduled a new public hearing. News report here.

When I don’t blog for a while, it’s usually because I’m out causing trouble for malevolent public officials or unethical developers. But it’s all good, because then I can come back here and dish the dirt with photos and video and all that happy shit.

I’m a founding member of Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network (VIC FAN), a tiny non-profit group that’s challenging the big boys of Bear Mountain. This week, we scored some points in the mainstream media.


Here’s the VIC FAN posse backing me up at Langford City Hall, February 27, 2009. Photo: Edward Hill/Goldstream News Gazette staff

VIC FAN is challenging a public hearing where Langford’s mayor verbally abused and intimidated residents opposed to the Bear Mountain Parkway and South Skirt Mountain Village development. News reports from the hearing on February 23 show an angry Mayor Stew Young browbeating a retired schoolteacher, calling her remarks “negative” and telling her to “sit down.” Other speakers were repeatedly interrupted and confronted by the mayor, who had earlier told reporters that he believes the development should be approved regardless of the public’s objections.

My neighbours want to protect wildlife habitat and water quality for the enjoyment of the whole community, and the way they were treated at the hearing is absolutely appalling.

The media frenzy is still in full swing. Behold:

Critics of Langford Development Assail Mayor’s Conduct
(Times Colonist, front page — above the fold, February 28, 2009)

Activists seek fresh public hearing
(Goldstream Gazette, March 4, 2009)

Langford mayor tangles with citizens over Skirt Mountain development (Times Colonist, February 24, 2009)

VIC FAN has since learned that the city and the developers have failed to notify — let alone consult with — the Tsartlip First Nation, which claims SPAET (Skirt) Mountain as part of its traditional territory. For thousands of years, the mountain has been a shared site where families from the Esquimalt, Songhees, Tsartlip and other First Natons would gather for ceremonies and celebrations.

Now we’re demanding a new public hearing on the South Skirt Mountain development. A February 27 letter to Mayor Stew Young and Langford City Council spells out several violations of the Local Government Act, and warns that if Langford adopts the controversial Skirt Mountain rezoning bylaw, it could be quashed by the Supreme Court.

I went down to City Hall yesterday, gave the letter to a city staff person and told him, “We’re putting the City of Langford on notice that we won’t tolerate bullying citizens who raise legitimate concerns about environmental destruction.”

In the letter to Langford’s mayor and council, our lawyer Irene Faulkner notes that:

  • Pertinent documents, such as an archaeological report, were not made available to members of the public;
  • Some speakers were interrupted and berated by the Mayor;
  • Audience members heckled and jeered at speakers.

The letter continues: “Such conduct suggests that those charged with making the decision were not amenable to any persuasion, but rather went through the motions of holding a hearing with a totally closed mind.”

Provincial statutes and past Supreme Court cases set a clear standard for public hearings on land use, which are considered “quasi-judicial” and expected to maintain “courtroom-like decorum.”

The controversial South Skirt Mountain Village proposal includes 2800 housing units, a village centre and an ecological centre that will decimate the remaining native garry oak and arbutus ecosystems on the steep hillside east of Goldstream Provincial Park and south of Bear Mountain Resort. The west side of the development plan abuts the Florence Lake neighbourhood.

Mayor Young revealed at Monday’s meeting that the city is seeking federal and provincial infrastructure funding for the South Skirt plan, in addition to the Bear Mountain Parkway and the Spencer Road Interchange, which are already under construction.

The interchange project and Bear Mountain Resort itself have been dogged by protests from environmentalists and First Nations people since November 2006. Two caves considered important cultural sites were destroyed during the construction of the interchange and the resort’s second golf course in 2008. In February 2008, more than 60 RCMP officers raided a protest camp and arrested five people. Their charges were later dropped, and a Public Complaints Commission investigation is ongoing.

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Earth Day Mini-Riot

Earth walk 2008
Earth Walk 2008, Victoria, BC. Photo: Pete Rockwell

On April 19, 2008, Victoria police attacked the city’s annual Earth Day parade because the parade leaders went “the wrong way” on the parade route. A friend of mine (we’ll call him John) was thrown to the ground, arrested and handcuffed by motorcycle cops when he and two others tried to carry the Earth Walk banner past the BC Legislature Building.

“They didn’t give me any warning at all,” John says. “We were having a great time marching with the samba band, and I wanted to go a little further around the block. I just didn’t want it to end yet.”

The cops had John down and cuffed, but seconds later half a dozen people piled on to un-arrest him. Twenty minutes of confusion followed as five hundred parade spectators crowded around trying to see what was happening. The motorcycle cops did not have a squad car to put John into, and instead of marching him away to a secure location, they stayed put — surrounded by a mob demanding his release.

A standoff ensued. I waded into the middle of the milling crowd. Raccoons were piled on top of each other with arms linked and the officers were telling the crowd to disperse.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked one. “We have a permit for this march.” The cop just glared at me. “How about trying to de-escalate this? You can end it right now by letting him go.” The cop turned away.

When the cops realized they were not going to be able to take John away, they said, “OK, if he just gives us his name we’ll let him go.” Someone in the crowd yelled “HIS NAME IS JUSTICE!” (He’ll always be Johnny Justice to us!)

I wiggled back out of the crush and ran up the steps of the Legislature Building to the stage. The musicians and welcome speakers were huddled off to the side, peering at the boiling mass of people on the street.

“Let him go! Let him go! Let him go! Let him go!” It was a great sound system. Some in the crowd were chanting along and clapping.

Some weren’t. Back in the street, one woman was yelling at the puppy-pile of eco-anarchists. “I hope you’re happy. You people ruined Earth Day just to make trouble and get in the news, didn’t you?”

Another woman ran up on the stage and tried to grab my arm. “You’re not telling the whole story, here,” she complained. “I’m sure the police have a reason for arresting him.”

“Why don’t you go talk the police and find out?” the sound man growled. He set up a second mike and we kept the chant going.

“Let him go! Let him go! Let him go! Let him go!”

Then a cheer went up from the street. The mass of people came streaming up the walkway toward us, led by our friend John running and leaping across the grass.

More cheers, and the festival began. No one was charged and John was not hurt. The sun came out, the drums came out, the speakers spoke, folks danced to live music, and we all pledged to care for the earth – and each other.

Photos by Pete Rockwell

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Who’s Killing Canada’s Environmental Movement?

Sat, 21 Jul 2007

Update: The Canadian Environmental Network is off the chopping block, the group announced July 23. A belated decision by the Environment Ministry to release the needed funds has saved the organization for another year. “I am grateful to the environmental movement for rallying to our support last week, when our survival was in question,” said CEN chairman Steve Rison in a news release. Meanwhile, dozens of other eco-organizations await news of their fate. For some – like the Climate Change impacts research group – it’s too little, too late.

——————————————————————————————————————————

The rumour mill had the bad news first, of course. Early this year, I heard reports that Environment Canada staffers were sitting idle at their desks with nothing to do, because funding for their projects was canceled

Now we hear that a wide range of eco-groups funded by the government may be headed for extinction.

John Baird, Minister of the Environment, received hundreds of emails this week pleading for the restoration of funding to organizations and networks that depend on Ottawa’s handouts to survive.

The response from government indicates it has merely mishandled budget items it considers a low priority. Minister Baird has not yet weighed in personally, but early this week a spokesperson said the funding is under review.

On Thursday, spokesperson Mike Van Soelen seemed to be backpedaling. “This is an annual process and we’re moving forward as the department does every year to evaluate and make decisions.”

“We may be a few weeks behind where we were in a typical year,” Van Soelen added.

Some dispute the government incompetence excuse, noting similarities to how Conservatives have slashed programs in the past.

Liberal MP Geoff Regan said, “It reminds me of the way the Harper government treated literacy groups last year. It seems like the Conservatives aren’t interested in any groups that don’t fit their neocon ideology.”

Whether this is a typical screwup or not, groups that expected funding way back in April haven’t seen a dime. Some professional envirocrats have already abandoned their posts, while others are in a panic over empty bank accounts and unpaid staff salaries.

And it’s not just Environment Canada choking off the cash flow – last week Natural Resources Canada suspended funding for its climate change network.

The Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network closed its doors on June 30 after the federal agency quietly scuttled funding for its six regional offices and seven research sectors. Studies on adapting to rising sea levels, changing forest zones, and threats to drinking water have now run dry.

Robin Sydneysmith tells me the group didn’t get cut for lack of results or poor performance. “The network was, by and large, deemed effective by two or three audit/reviews, and was a leading example of a very ‘made in Canada’ approach to dealing with and responding to climate change,” Sydneysmith explains in an email.

All that changed when the funding was pulled for the network. “At least the national headquarters was able to keep going for one more year, but it is effectively a ‘bodiless head,’” Sydneysmith laments. “Much good will, momentum and social capital has been lost.”

A final message from CCIARN BC says, “We remain committed and involved in furthering climate change research, especially at the community level where adaptation ultimately takes place. “

Meanwhile, Canadian Press reports another national group is facing the same crisis.

The Canadian Environmental Network, a backbone of communications within Canada’s environmental movement, has warned its staff they may be laid off next week because of federal funding cuts.

The CEN is not well known because it is non-political and does not take a stand on issues, but it plays a vital role for hundreds of environmental groups, especially smaller ones that don’t have the budget for networking and communications.

Steve Rison, chair of the group’s board of directors, warned staff their jobs were at risk in an e-mail obtained by The Canadian Press.

In the memo, he says operational funding is normally obtained annually based on an April-to-March fiscal year, but no funding has been received since April 1, nor is there any assurance it will be provided.

Rison says in the memo that the group’s executive director, Susan Tanner, is working without pay because there is no money for her salary.

Losing the Canadian Environmental Network could affect 800 or so grassroots groups, plus dozens more that rely directly on Ottawa, including:

The EcoAction Community Funding Program which provides financial support to community groups for projects “that have measurable, positive impacts on the environment,” in the words of the Environment Canada web site.

Learning for a Sustainable Future, which “works with educators from across Canada to integrate the concepts and principles of sustainable development into the curricula at all grade levels,” also according to the official web site.

The Atlantic Coastal Action Program set up by Environment Canada 1991 “to mobilize local communities to address their own environmental and developmental challenges.” The programs supports 16 local groups throughout the four Atlantic provinces.

Regan condemned the government for starving Atlantic groups while the government sits on a multibillion dollar surplus.

“These are all groups that are working to preserve and enhance our coastal ecosystems. That’s incredibly important. We’re talking here about restoring and sustaining key watersheds and adjacent coastal areas,” Regan said.

Oh, but don’t lose hope just yet. Decisions are still pending, and the rumour mill is working overtime. The latest speculation says the Ministry may restore funding to previous lackluster levels, thanks to a furious outpouring of emails and phone calls.

Either way. this past week has helped to show who has the guts to carry on even after the funding is gone, who’s willing to push back, and who flees like a rat from a sinking ship.

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Tree Huggers Gone Wild!

Tue, 12 Jun 2007

A fast photo rewind of the Wild Earth Rendezvous and the latest Bear Mountain actions.

First up is Cristina, Wild Earth’s volunteer coordinator, with an awesome display of dexterity and teamwork in defense of Bear Mountain at the World Naked Bike Ride in Victoria on June 9.


Photos: Clare A. (Click for the full-size image.)

The banner crew hijacked the parade and led the crowd to the BC Legislature.

Another volunteer climbed a tree and hung a billboard-sized banner next to the Trans Canada Highway on June 8.

Back at the Wild Earth rendezvous and action training last week, the wildflowers were blooming.

Photos: Red Cedar.

Hala’qwit, the Ditidaht First Nation song keeper, welcomed the campers with his daughter.

GNN’s Frank The Stimulator Lopez shared some laughs with Qwatsinas, a Nuxalk hereditary chief, at the Guerrilla Lounge.

Niki admired the giant Sitka Spruces.

“My name is Matthew but they call me John.” Hala’qwit’s nephew.

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Direct Action is the Antidote to Despair

Mon, 21 May 2007

Training camp teaches more than just protest tactics

Alex Patterson unbuckles the harness he’s been wearing since breakfast. The young man’s khaki pants are smeared with dirt and his hair is festooned with moss and bits of bark. He shakes out the straps of the harness and untangles the dangling ropes and clips. A second tree-climber steps out of the woods, sweaty but smiling, and gives Patterson a pat on the back. “Thanks for the lesson, man. That was awesome,” the young woman says as she turns toward the kitchen tent. “Right on. Come back tomorrow if you want to learn stirruping,” Patterson calls after her.

In front of the kitchen, a large yellow signboard proclaims, “Welcome to Wild Earth.” A second board lists the day’s workshops and ferry schedule. Three people are chopping potatoes and onions for dinner. Another strums a guitar. Two youngsters chase each other around the picnic table. On the other side of the meadow, a crowd of people mills around before forming into two lines. On a signal from the non-violence trainer, one group moves forward, shouting, waving fists, and even pushing members of the second group, who say little but hold the line by keeping their arms linked together. After a couple of minutes, the trainer calls a halt and the two groups switch roles.

The Wild Earth gathering at Newcastle Island Provincial Park in June 2006 marked seven years of training and networking for eco-action in BC. Since 1999, organizers say eight hundred people have attended seventy-five workshops on topics ranging from civil disobedience to indigenous rights. The annual “boot camp” is hosted by an independent, ad hoc group of volunteers. A grant from Rainforest Action Network covered the cost of climbing gear and transportation in 2006. Most of the food and supplies are donated by the community.

After hearing about the gathering for the first time in 2006, Patterson decided to hitchhike from Ontario to British Columbia to teach others how to climb trees. Patterson is a veteran of the Red Hill tree sits that blocked a highway project near Hamilton, and he believes more forest activists should embrace non-violent action.

“Direct action is the first and last line of defense,” Patterson says. “It’s the only way people at the grassroots level can really affect things. It sidesteps all the layers of bureaucracy and legal barriers created by people in power in order to keep themselves in power and prevent us from creating meaningful change.”

When the situation requires blockades and tree sits, forest activists need to know which strategies work. That’s why training is so crucial, Patterson says. “Whatever the moral and ethical issues of direct action, there’s very important tactical issues. If people don’t know how to do this stuff, they come to confrontations unprepared. And if we’re not prepared, the police take us to jail.”

Chief Qwatsinas (Ed Moody), of the Nuxalk Nation’s House of Smayusta, is traveling from Bella Coola to Vancouver Island to deliver a Wild Earth keynote address on problems with the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. Qwatsinas has spent more than thirteen years fighting to protect the coast, starting in 1994 when the Nuxalk invited Greenpeace to their traditional territory to witness large-scale clearcut logging. The following year, Greenpeace teamed up with the Nuxalk and other environmental groups to launch the Great Bear Rainforest campaign.

“I still remember back quite a while ago when Greenpeace was first developing; they were really brave and believed in what they’re doing,” Qwatsinas recalls. “And then it slowly began to change. The centre has shifted.”

In 1997, Nuxalk members and their allies – Greenpeace, Forest Action Network, Bear Watch and People’s Action for Threatened Habitat – blocked logging operations on Roderick Island, King Island and Ista, which is sacred to the Nuxalk as the place where the first woman came to earth. Two dozen Nuxalk people were arrested that year, including Qwatsinas.

Now, he says, the protests are more timid. “A lot of people are scared of tactics from the other side, arresting tactics and reporting tactics. You develop a criminal record from being a part of the action.“

But Qwatsinas is not intimidated. “If that’s what it takes, to be labeled a terrorist, then let’s save the trees.”

Qwatsinas and the House of Smayusta did not sign on to the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, which was announced in February 2006. He feels the compromise gives away too much of the forest, and he says the rate of logging has on the coast has increased dramatically in the past year.

“It’s talk and log,” says Qwatsinas. “It’s not a victory. Everyone loses.”

In the past few years, BC’s long tradition of non-violent resistance to forest destruction has virtually disappeared. Qwatsinas blames Greenpeace for pulling the plug on the blockades during the Great Bear negotiations.

“They made the Central Coast an environmental-protest-free zone,” Qwatsinas says. “We can’t go out and blockade or protest. We’re neutralized, really. They’re handcuffed. How are you going to set forth your demands at the table when your will is broken?”

But compromise is not an option when defending sacred land, and Qwatsinas predicts the recent lull in peaceful resistance won’t last. “I think people will start to realize what’s going on and start to create those movements. I think direct action will start to blow back into the picture again. There’s only so much abuse and sacrifice the wildlife and the environment can take.”

Vancouver Island activist and Wild Earth presenter Ingmar Lee agrees that grassroots action is crucial when it comes to real change. “The successes have come from individual grassroots efforts that have basically bypassed the entrenched bureaucratic environmental institutions that have been sucking up the enviro-buck and just not getting the kind of accomplishments we need,” Lee says. “In the Gordon Campbell world, we have to confront – directly confront – and go out there and take it on ourselves to defend the forests.”

Lee understands the need for no-compromise action. As a key member of the campaign to save Cathedral Grove from a misguided parking lot, he spent over two years helping to coordinate a campaign of road-blocking and tree-sitting that ultimately forced the province to back off.

Wild Earth organizer Tim Dobbyn has committed a big part of his life to the training camp. “I think direct action works because it is immediate,” the 23-year old North Vancouver resident explains. “Indirect methods can work, but they take more time; time forests and people don’t have, in some cases. Direct actions also raise the consciousness about issues, bringing more attention and more hands to help.”

Dobbyn attended the first Wild Earth gathering in 1999, when he was 15. Now the campout is a family event, with his partner Fern and his two small children. He says, “Wild Earth 1999 was the first environmentalist event I ever went to, also the first time I ever skipped school for more than one class, the first time I went camping without my parents — a major formative event in my life.”

For Dobbyn, the training camp teaches more than just protest tactics. “We’re here to strengthen bonds with friends, make new friends, learn new skills and ideas, and build radical community.”

The Wild Earth Rendezvous takes place June 1 – 7 at a backcountry forest camp southwest of Cowichan Lake on Vancouver Island. More than two dozen workshops are scheduled. Admission is by donation and includes meals, snacks, and childcare for the week. More information and directions are available online at the Wild Earth Blog.

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I’m No Action Hero

Mon, 16 Apr 2007


Photo: Ingmar Lee

I’m standing at the base of the tree leaning back on my harness and peering at the platform sixty feet above. Ingmar is encouraging me to get up there. The press conference is supposed to start in forty-five minutes and we need to get into position. Ingmar’s fully informed about my slightly spastic condition and I can tell he’s not sure if I can still do this. I give him a thumbs up and start up the rope.


Photo: Dan Eastabrook, Goldstream News Gazette

By the time the camera crews arrive, we’re both up on the platform with our feet dangling down. The cameras focus in as Ingmar rappels down the rope. I stay up in the tree. The CH TV guy comes over with a microphone and battery pack and attaches them to the end of the rope. I haul the rope up and clip the mike to my coat collar. The reporter calls her questions up to me and I shout back down at her, forgetting about the mike.


Photo: CH News.

The reporters and cameras finally leave and I’m alone up in the tree. The platform is a pair of four by eight foot plywood sheets reinforced with two by fours. It looks like a raft on the open ocean. Ropes and rigging are everywhere and the white tarps billow in the wind like sails. The plywood planks are not quite level and they creak and sway as I move around.

It’s a two-room platform: one plank is the bedroom, with a tiny tent nailed to it. The other serves as the living room (a folding chair) and kitchen (a camp stove and a pot). The bathroom is a bucket hanging below the tree-sit. Everything is lashed down or clipped in, but things fall overboard anyway: two pens, my lighter, the lid to my thermos.

I’m tied to the tree on a ten-foot leash tethered to my harness that stays on every moment, even when I’m sleeping. The thing wraps itself around my legs every time I turn around and threatens to knock small untethered objects off the platform.

The red webbing is Ingmar’s leash, and I’m yanking on it. Photo: Ingmar Lee

I’m afraid of falling. Everyone is; people are hardwired that way. Even though I have total confidence in the platform and the safety line, that giddy feeling comes and goes, especially when I’m moving around close to the edge or getting ready to descend down the rope.

There’s a constant wind up here and the roar of traffic is louder. Through the trees to the south I can just make out a bare knoll and the entrance to the Langford Cave, a 40-meter-long karst cavity that draws cavers from all over the region.

The Songhees First Nation named this place Spaet Mountain. The city of Langford calls it Skirt Mountain. The developer has re-named it Bear Mountain to go along with the marketing of their resort and property sales.

A pileated woodpecker flies into the grove of dead snags next to the platform and lands on a trunk at eye level. It hammers away at the wood for a few moments and then swoops over the trail and up a rotten stump. A hummingbird zips by, flashing green. The forest floor is carpeted with trillium and lilies.

As night falls, the traffic dies down and the frogs start up. The tree sways slightly in the wind and the thrushes sing their evening songs. I crawl into the tiny tent and curl up in my sleeping bag, tugging at the tether every time I turn over. Waking up in the middle of the night, I hear an owl hooting.


Photo: Chris Cook

Thursday morning I wake up with the sun shining through the trees and a winter wren scolding me nearby. I crawl out of my cocoon, bleary-eyed, and go through the routine of making a pot of tea, taking a shit in the bucket, rolling a cigarette and surveying the forest. I feel wonderful.

People come to visit: local supporters, more journalists, and curious neighbours. Food donations are piling up under a tarp Ingmar tied up for a base camp. The food has to be dealt with because there are raccoons (and possibly bears) in the area, so I haul it up to the platform and make a space in a gear bag for cans of soup, noodles, oatmeal, and cookies.

Cheryl Bryce, the lands manager for the Songhees First Nation, stops by to lend her support and videotape the tree-sit. She’s disturbed that some members of the band council are supporting the development rather than voting to protect the environmental values of their traditional territory. I come down the rope and we chat for a half an hour. </p

The clouds gather and an icy wind picks up. I go to bed early, snuggled down in the bottom of the sleeping bag with an extra fleece blanket.

Friday dawns with threatening clouds. Then a threatening little man with a mustache: the lands manager for the Provincial Capital Commission. He’s been sent to determine whether I’m on PCC land, and to grumble at me about the commission’s liability if someone gets hurt and sues them. I promise I won’t hurt anybody and I won’t sue anybody. He suggests if I’m trespassing, he may get the police involved. I invite him to the salmon barbecue scheduled for later tonight. He studies me for a minute without responding and then marches off into the forest with his maps in hand.

I don’t know if he’ll call the police, but even if they show up, they won’t be able to arrest me because I’m sixty feet up in a tree. The RCMP in Vancouver has a special climbing team for these kind of situations, but it takes a few days to assemble. I contemplate the legal implications of criminal trespass charges and court injunctions.

Later: I’m bored, so I use my borrowed cell phone to call the developers’ head office. Bear Mountain Resort and Bear Mountain Properties are the forces behind this project and I figure it’s only polite to introduce myself. But it seems no one is available on this Friday afternoon, not even a receptionist, so I leave a cheery message in the general mailbox describing the wildlife in the area and inviting them all to the salmon barbecue.


Bear Mountain development. Photo: Google Earth

The rain holds off, miraculously. At dinnertime, three dozen tree-huggers are gathered around a small campfire devouring barbecued salmon, roasted wieners, mashed potatoes, and bags of fruit and cookies. Mary Vickers, a Heiltsuk Nation woman from Bella Bella, provided the salmon, and she gets us all to join hands while she says a prayer to the spirits and the ancestors to bless our work here. Ingmar stands up on a stump and lays out the plan: seven people are needed to take charge of the tree-sit for one day a week. Each person would either sit in the tree for twenty-four hours or find another person to do it. He’ll provide the training.

By Saturday, I’m thoroughly weary of the tiny platform, the harness, and the shit bucket. My legs and arms are shaky from climbing up and down the rope. I’m longing for a hot shower and a soft bed. But still I sit for hours mesmerized, staring out into the forest, listening to the birds, and feeling my senses expand to the limit of hearing and vision.

On Sunday morning, the relief shift arrives. Keith lives nearby and he has no idea how to climb a tree, but he’s willing to learn and Ingmar’s willing to teach him. I rappel down for the last time. My man Dan is there to give me a ride home.


Back on the ground. Photo: Chris Cook

I don’t want folks to get the idea that I’m some kind of action hero. I’m retired from all that now. This was just a one-time special event – more of a vacation than an action; more of a cameo than a comeback. I joked with the folks watching me climb that I’m living proof: almost anyone can do this shit. And it’s true – the biggest obstacle is conquering the fear of falling, the fear of failing, the fear of powerlessness. The campaign is just now beginning, but folks are digging in for the long haul. Cheers to the Spaet Mountain defenders!

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Derrick Jensen: This Abusive Civilization

April 9, 2007 

Deep ecology author Derrick Jensen discusses bringing down western civilization and reactions to his latest book Endgame: the Problem of Civilization.

In his most recent book, deep ecology author Derrick Jensen compares western civilization to an abusive family, where violence is a constant threat and the victims feel helpless and dependent on the abuser. He urges his readers to bring down this culture by any means necessary. His ideas are controversial, and Jensen confesses he gets “hate mail from pacifists.” Zoe Blunt spoke with Jensen by phone from his home in Crescent City, California earlier this month.

Blunt: Your book Endgame has been getting a lot of attention. You write that “civilization and the civilized continue to create a world of wounds.”

Jensen: Yeah, where do you want to start? Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. The passenger pigeons are gone. The great auks are gone. The oceans are being murdered. There’s dioxin in every mother’s breast milk. Indigenous people have been dispossessed, had their land stolen and been forced to enter this economy, forced to enter this system. People all around the world have been enslaved. So, what wounds would you like to talk about?

Lets talk about – Mary Daly said there’s only one religion in the world, which is patriarchy. Robin Morgan wrote about something she calls “the democracy of fear,” which is that everywhere in the world, any woman could be walking alone at night and if she hears footsteps behind her she has reason to be afraid. So there’s a huge wound right there.

We could talk about the wage economy. We could talk about the fact that there are more slaves on the planet right now than came across on the middle passage, using a tight definition of slavery. That’s not even including wage slaves or anything else.

Blunt: You’ve been getting a lot of response to your book, and not all of it positive. Why is it so difficult for some people to contemplate the end of civilization?

Jensen: I think that one of the reasons is we identify more closely with being civilized beings than we do with being animals who need habitat. Another way to talk about that is if your experience is that your food comes from the grocery store and your water comes from the tap, you’ll defend to the death the system that brings those to you because your life depends on it. If, on the other hand, your food comes from a landbase and your water comes from a river, then you’ll defend to the death that landbase and that river, because your life depends on them.

Like any good abusive system, this system has made us dependent upon it. And another important thing about the whole question of abuse is that one of the things that happens within any abusive dynamic, and that’s true whether we’re talking about an abusive family or an abusive culture, is that everything – and I mean everything – in this dynamic is set up to protect the abuser. And so every member of an abusive family comes to identify more closely with the abuser’s feelings than they do their own.

If you look at all the “solutions” proposed for global warming – anywhere, all of them – what do they take as a given? They take as a given industrial capitalism. That’s the baseline. The baseline is not the real world, the physical world, which must be the baseline for all of our decisions because without a world, we don’t have anything.

Most of the complaints about Endgame, and most of the hate mail I’ve gotten about Endgame, frankly, has not come from people who think that civilization will go on forever. Most of it’s come from pacifists and lifestyle activists, and one of the jokes I’ve started making is that I should write a version of Endgame called “Endgame for Pacifists,” which would be a thousand blank pages with one in the middle that says “sometimes it’s okay to fight back.” Because it’s the only thing they’re hearing in the entire book, or the only thing they’re reading in the entire book. All the other analysis goes by the wayside. They see that, it triggers them, and they can’t think about anything. And I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail from both pacifists and also from lifestyle activists who get very upset when I suggest they have to do more than just live simply.

Blunt: You’ve written about hope in regard to reforming civilization, and you said hope is harmful –

Jensen: I don’t want to reform civilization, by the way.

Blunt: No. So you’re saying hope is harmful, when it comes to our goals.

Jensen: Okay, let’s back up a second. What are our goals? What are your goals? What do you want?

Blunt: You’ve talked about – and I agree with this – a world where every year there are more salmon, where there is more old-growth forest, where there are more spotted owls, for example. We’re about to lose the last of our spotted owls in Canada. If we want to stop that, what do we do?

Jensen: Okay, that’s great. The first thing we have to do is figure out what we want. And the next thing we have to do, I think, is figure out what it takes for those creatures to survive. And it’s pretty fundamental. I mean, what they need is habitat. Okay, end of conversation, talk to you later!

What do salmon need? They need for dams to be removed. They need for industrial logging to stop. They need for industrial fishing to stop. (I’m not saying they need for fishing to stop; they need for industrial fishing to stop.) They need for industrial agriculture to stop, because of runoff. They need for global warming to stop, which means they need for the industrial economy to stop. They need for the oceans not to be murdered. And each of those is pretty straightforward.

The problem is that so often, when people say, “What will it take for salmon to survive?” what they mean is, “What will it take for salmon to survive, given that we’re not going to remove dams, we’re not going to stop industrial logging, we’re not going to stop industrial fishing?” It’s the same. What do spotted owls need to survive, given that we’re going to allow all of their habitat to be clearcut?

It’s like, once again, what is primary and what is secondary? And what’s always considered primary is this culture and this culture’s exploitation.

And now, at long last, to your question of hope. One of the things we need to do first is – there’s false hope. I think it needs to be eradicated. False hope is one of the things that binds us to unlivable situations. That’s one of the reasons why, like I mentioned earlier, that at every step of the way it was in the Jews’ rational best interest to not resist [the Nazis]. There’s a false hope that if they just go along, they won’t get killed. And my mother – one of the reasons she stayed with my father is because of the false hope that he would change.

And what are the false hopes that bind us to this system? I mean, does anyone really think that Mac-Blo is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone think that Monsanto is going to stop Monsanto-ing because we ask nicely? Oh, if we could just get a Democrat in the White House, things would be okay!

I was bashing hope at a talk I did a couple years ago, and someone in the audience interrupted to shout out, “What is your definition of hope?” I didn’t have one, so I asked them to define it. And the definition they came up with was that hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency.

But I’m not interested in hope. I’m interested in agency. I’m interested in us finding what we love, and figuring out what it will take to defend our beloved, and doing it.

Blunt: Derrick Jensen, you’re speaking in Vancouver on April 18th, and the title of your talk is “Taking Action in a Culture of Violence.” Tell us what we can expect from that.

Jensen: Well, what I’ll talk about primarily is a question: Do you believe this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living? I ask that question to people all over the country and no one ever says “yes.” And if you don’t believe that this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living, what does that mean for our strategies and for our tactics? The answer is, we don’t know, and the reason we don’t know is because we don’t talk about it, and the reason we don’t talk about it is because we’re all so busy pretending that we have hope.

Blunt: Do you have any new books in the works?

Jensen: Oh, my gosh. Okay, so Endgame came out about a year ago. I’ve got another book coming out in a month or so, which is an anti-zoo book. It’s written with Karen Tweedy Holmes, the photographer, and that’s coming out through [publisher] No Voice Unheard. Then I have a book coming out next January from Seven Stories [Press], called “As the World Burns: Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial.” That’s a graphic novel done with Stephanie McMillan, who does the wonderful cartoon “Minimum Security.”

And right now I’m writing a book about shit – whoops, I’m writing a book about feces, and how this culture has taken something that used to be a tremendous gift to the landbase and turned it into something poisonous. And how, in a sustainable culture, all of the products are helpful to the land. There’s no such thing as waste. And how, if I defecate, somebody else – slugs or flies or the soil itself – eats it. And this culture produces wastes that are not useful, but in fact harmful.

Blunt: That’s a lot of work that’s going to be coming in the future.

Jensen: Yeah. You know, I’m actually thinking that I’m really tired. And it’s not just because I’ve been touring so much. I think I might take a couple months off this summer. Because for one, I’ve been really sick the last couple of years. And also, I’ve written thirteen books, I think, in the last six years. I remember I was thinking, “When I finish Endgame, I’m going to take a break.” I finished it in November of whatever year that was, and then in December I wrote that anti-zoo book, and then the next year I wrote those two novels. And it just goes on.

I haven’t taken a break in years. And you know, I go back and forth because things are so, so desperate. And I just – I can’t stop. There’s a couple reasons I can’t stop. One is because things are so desperate and they’re getting worse every day. And another reason is because I’m so in love. I’m in love with [the land] and that’s what you do. If you love someone and they’re being hurt, they’re being killed, you do what you can. You don’t rest.

And then, also, I’m very aware of my own mortality. I don’t want to die with eight books still in me. You know? I don’t want to die and look back at the very last second and say, “I wish I could’ve done more. I wish I could’ve done this much more to help the salmon. I wish I could’ve done this much more to help the redwood trees.”

When I die, I want to be spent. I want to feel like – You know there’s some days when you work really, really hard, and then you go to sleep and you are so, so ready to go to sleep? That’s how I want to die. It’s like, you know what? I’m done. There’s nothing else I can do.

Derrick Jensen presents “Taking Action in a Culture of Violence” in Vancouver, BC on April 18 at 7 pm, Langara College, Room A130. He will be speaking at Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibsons, BC on April 19 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15, students $12. For more information, call 604-253-6281 or visit www.derrickjensen.org.

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Great-Grandmother Gets Ten Months for Protest

Mon, 5 Mar 2007
Betty Krawczyk
Betty Krawczyk

Vancouver – A BC Supreme Court justice today sentenced Betty Krawczyk, age 78, to ten months in jail for protesting the destruction of a wetlands near Vancouver, BC last year. News outlets report that a dozen of Betty’s supporters have taken over the lobby of the Supreme Court building in downtown Vancouver at this hour, chanting “Shame, shame” and beating drums. Sheriffs are standing by and more arrests may be imminent.

Krawczyk pitched a tent in the path of bulldozers building a highway bypass in West Vancouver last spring, defying a court order banning protestors from the area. She was arrested and carried away by police, but returned to the blockade site twice more and later refused to apologize to the court for her actions. After her third arrest last July, Krawczyk was held in jail for two months “to protect the public,” the judge said at the time. She will not be credited for time served.

Justice Brenda Brown handed down the sentence for criminal contempt of court in a high-security courtroom this morning. She described Krawczyk’s breach of the court order as “open, flagrant and continuing.” Krawczyk had told the judge she would not accept probation or house arrest, stating she would not participate in her own punishment. Krawczyk has already spent two years in jail for logging blockades on the BC coast.

In May 2006, Police arrested Krawczyk along with two dozen others, including Harriet Nahanee, a First Nations elder who died last week after her release from jail. In January, Justice Brown gave Nahanee, age 71, two weeks in Surrey Pre-Trial Centre. She was hospitalized a week after completing her sentence, and a few days later she died of pneumonia complicated by a previously undiagnosed lung cancer.

Krawczyk represented herself at her trial after her lawyer, Cameron Ward, withdrew from the case.

“The Crown is using this (sentence) as a way of keeping any sort of publicity away from issues about the way we do business in BC, and about the way the Attorney General instructs the police to arrest people,” Krawczyk told Justice Brown last July. “I really resent being arrested under the auspices of a corporation that’s destroying a precious bio-system – an American company – under the BC courts.”

Krawczyk’s supporters are angry about the long sentence and the heavy-handed security at the courtroom. The hearing was held in a special courtroom with bulletproof barriers, and everyone who wanted to attend was searched.

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First Nations Activist Dies After Release from Jail

Sun, 25 Feb 2007

Harriet Nahanee under arrest at Eagleridge Bluffs in 2006. (Photo: Christopher Grabowski)

In memory of Harriet Nahanee, age 71

A community is in mourning following the death of a great-grandmother who fought to defend aboriginal rights and the environment. Activist Harriet Nahanee died at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Saturday, February 24, one month after she was sentenced to fourteen days in jail for protesting the destruction of a wetlands for a highway bypass.

The woman who once said that natives need an “aboriginal Malcolm X” to restore their pride will be sorely missed by many, including her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Nahanee, age 71, was weak from the flu and asthma when BC Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown ordered her to the Surrey Women’s Pre-Trial Centre in January.

Nahanee was hospitalized with pneumonia a week after her release from jail. Then doctors discovered she had lung cancer. A news release on Sunday, February 25 briefly announced Nahanee’s death from pneumonia and complications.

Fellow activist and great-grandmother Betty Krawczyk, age 78, was among those who attended a prayer vigil for Nahanee Friday night. “Me and Harriet really bonded” at the Eagleridge Bluffs blockade, she told me. “We were the only great-grandmothers there. It was up to us to bring it forward.”

In January. Krawczyk urged Justice Brown to refrain from sending Mrs. Nahanee to jail. “I am very worried about Mrs. Harriet Nahanee,” Krawczyk wrote. “Mrs. Nahanee is not well. She has asthma and is suffering the after effects of a recent bout of flu that has left her very weak.”

On March 5th, Justice Brown will sentence Krawczyk for her own part in the Eagleridge Bluffs protest. Krawczyk expects to be sent to the same Surrey jail as Nahanee.

“Harriet believed Eagleridge Bluffs belonged to the Squamish Nation, and she felt her band – the elected chiefs – were trading the land away for development,” Krawczyk told me by phone from Vancouver. “She wanted the land preserved for her great-grandchildren. She put her life on the line for that.”

Krawczyk reports that Nahanee was “challenging the right of the elected chiefs of the Squamish Nation to negotiate away traditional Squamish Lands off the Squamish Reserve, lands that include Eagleridge Bluffs. This action potentially has serious ramifications for the entire band concerning who has the right to negotiate away traditional Squamish Indian lands,” she wrote in her blog.

Nahanee was born on the Pacheenaht Indian Reserve on Vancouver Island in 1937. Along with the other children on the reserve, she was taken from her parents at age 5 to live at the Ahousaht Residential School. Five years later she and 300 others were transferred to Alberni Residential School. In 1998 she testified about the horrific abuse she and other native children suffered, including beatings, rape, and murder.

According to Lloyd Dolha, Nahanee reported that children were punished for singing their traditional songs and speaking their own language. They were so poorly fed that they were beaten for stealing vegetables from the root cellar. She disclosed that she was sexually abused for four years in the school.

“I didn’t bring it to mind until 1984, when my daughter committed suicide. Then I began to look at myself. Why I was addicted to alcohol? Why I wasn’t a good parent?” When Nahanee visited a psychiatrist she told him, “I think the church and the government did this to us deliberately in order to take the land and resources. It was all about keeping us dysfunctional, to keep us dependent.”

On December 24, 1946, Nahanee witnessed an altercation between Rev. A. E. Caldwell, and a female supervisor at the top of a staircase at the school. They were arguing about a little girl who was running up and down the stairs.

“Mr. Caldwell was always drunk. You could smell the liquor on his breath all the time,” Nahanee recalled.

“He kicked the little girl and she fell down the stairs and died. That’s murder. There were other kids in the infirmary who had their appendix burst. That’s murder. Other children were beaten so badly they died. That’s murder. No one bothered to take them to the hospital.”

“The worst part of it was the loneliness. When you’re a little kid and you can’t reach out to your mom for a hug – it really hurts. It’s a wound for a lifetime,” said Nahanee.

On February 23, the day before Nahanee’s death, the Indigenous Action Movement held a rally and prayer vigil for Harriet. Almost 100 people gathered outside the Supreme Court for a ceremonial walk to St. Paul’s Hospital.

The group prayed with drums and sang the Women Warrior’s Song outside Nahanee’s hospital room to give her support and strength. They brought flowers, cards and a picture of the Larsen Creek Wetlands at Eagleridge Bluffs before they were demolished.

Details about Nahanee’s memorial have not yet been confirmed by her family.

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