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Zoe

offline 13 friends
joined on 05/25/06
last updated 09/15/07
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Guerrilla News Network

Gonzo news for a fucked up planet. Read my blog at zoeblunt.gnn.tv.

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Wild News for the West Coast

It happened by accident. It started last spring when some friends of mine started a tree sit in the forest in the path of a proposed highway interchange. The city of Langford, near Victoria, BC, is all set to bulldoze a sacred First Nations cave, a rare Garry Oak bluff, and habitat for screech owls, great horned owls, and endangered plants. They're doing it in order to service the catastrophic Bear Mountain Resort development up the hill.

I volunteered to be the one to go up in the tree - at least for the first week. Then someone else went up and I came down, and I wrote a little essay about it with pictures for my blog on Guerrilla News Network. The Tree Sit Diary got reprinted in a dozen or more places online under various titles, and then last month I got a note from a reporter I used to know in Vancouver. He's now an editor with Adbusters, and he asked if I would let them print the piece for $50. Hell yes. Adbusters is a brilliant mind-blowing magazine of anti-corporate resistance, so right on.

"I'm No Action Hero" appears in the November/December issue (#74) Check it out with all the original photos and commentary here: www.gnn.tv/B22846. Below is the full text. Thanks for reading!

I'm No Action Hero

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.

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.

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.

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 togo 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.

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.

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 Capitol 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.

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.

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!
Sat, September 15, 2007 - 9:52 PM permalink - 0 comments
 
Announcing the Wild Earth 2007 Rendezvous
June 1 – 7, somewhere in a BC coastal forest

The Wild Earth Rendezvous is a place for training and networking for activists and community members involved in rainforest protection. Since 1999, more than 800 participants have learned new skills, strategies, and contacts for forest activism. Wild Earth has hosted more than 75 workshops in an inclusive community-minded environment.

Some of last year's workshops:

* Grassy Narrows campaign
* Mt. Elphinstone campaign
* Skwelk'wek welt campaign
* Non-violence and civil disobedience
* Blockade strategy
* Green Anarchy
* Legal rights for arrestees
* Tree-climbing and tree-sitting

Wild Earth is modeled on the Ruckus Society and Rainforest Action Network activist training camps. The annual gathering (now in its 9th year) is dedicated to individual and group empowerment through volunteer recruitment, skill-sharing, action planning and strategic alliances. We expect 150 to 200 people to participate from across Canada and the western United States.

This year's rendezvous will focus on imminent threats to old-growth rainforests in BC and preparing participants for action. Response to our outreach this winter has been strong and several key BC environmental leaders, both native and non-native, are already planning to attend.

Folks are signing up to get involved and to volunteer for carpooling, kitchen, childcare, and coordination. The cost of the gathering is by donation, volunteers get in free. Please RSVP with your ideas and suggestions.

See you in three months!
Zoe
for Wild Earth 2007

Check the Wild Earth blog for updates and tons of photos of last year's gathering.
wildearth2007.blogspot.com
Poster and sign up sheet: www.geocities.com/greenmonk...ration.doc
Website: wildearth.resist.ca
Sat, March 3, 2007 - 6:27 PM permalink - 0 comments
 
Come together for a live music celebration at Alive and Free: a benefit for Tre Arrow, Thursday Feb 1st starting at 7 pm at the Solstice Cafe, 529 Pandora Street, downtown Victoria.

Featuring The Rabbleberries (political folk)
The Rhythm of Denial (Egyptian percussion).

Plus special guests
Oliver the World (foot-stomping music)
Jeff Andrew (hip hop)
Beth and Sally (vocalists),
Dani Rubin (blues)
Student of Life

Admission is by donation, five dollars to fifty dollars suggested. (No one will be turned away.)
Doors 6 pm, music 7 to 10 pm

Proceeds benefit political prisoner Trey Arrow, an environmental activist framed by the US government for crimes he did not commit. For more information, come on down to Alive and Free, Thursday Feb 1st at the Solstice Cafe, or visit treyarrow.org.
Sat, January 27, 2007 - 3:16 PM permalink - 0 comments
 
Back by popular demand!
Wild @ Heart, local live music party with Wild Earth & the BC Environmental Network
Friday Jan 19th, 2007
Cafe Deux Soleils, 2096 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC

Eco-Folk and Blues, featuring:

JAY BURNSTICK & FRIENDS (winner, Best Instrumental Album, 2005 Canadian
Aboriginal Music Awards) acoustic and lap-slide guitar

STEVE QUATTROCCHI vocals, mandolin and acoustic guitar

RYAN TRIGG folk guitar and percussion

Dinner 7 pm
Networking 8 pm
Music 9:30 pm

Dance – Party – Eat – Drink – Jam

Join local enviros and friends for a night of untamed fun

$5 suggested donation (no one will be turned away)

See you there!

BCEN: www.ecobc.org
Wild Earth: wildearth.resist.ca
Thu, January 4, 2007 - 2:47 PM permalink - 0 comments
 
Wild @ Heart - Live local music party for Wild Earth & BC Environmental Network
Saturday Oct 14th, 7:30 pm til midnight
El Cocal Restaurant, 1037 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC.

Eco-Folk, Roots Rock, and Blues, featuring:

JAY BURNSTICK (winner, Best Instrumental Album, 2005 Canadian
Aboriginal Music Awards) acoustic and lap-slide guitar

STEVE QUATTROCCHI vocals, mandolin and acoustic guitar

DANI RUBIN electric slide and acoustic guitar, harp

The fabulous "HARMONICA" LEWINSKY

Dance – Party – Eat – Drink – Jam
Get wild with local nature lovers and friends for a night of
celebration.

$5 suggested donation (no one will be turned away)

Music starts 7:30 pm.
See you there!

RSVP: ef.vancouver@gmail.com
BCEN: www.ecobc.org
Wild Earth: wildearth.resist.ca
Poster link: www.geocities.com/greenmonk...tfinal.pdf
Sat, September 16, 2006 - 12:23 PM permalink - 0 comments
 
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WHERE'S the ACTION??

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Cop Surveillance in Vancouver

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We're Fucked - Derrick Jensen on Hope

THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We're fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have—or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective — to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they're reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here's how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons


for doing the work: "As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they're gone in twenty, they'll be gone forever."

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We're losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don't care.


Frankly, I don't have much hope. But I think that's a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.


To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women's shelters in the '50s and '60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.


Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they're getting worse. Rapidly.
But it isn't only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?


We've all been taught that hope in some future condition—like hope in some future heaven—is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I'm sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind's sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one's misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.


Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying "Hope and fear chase each other's tails," not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn't believe—or maybe you would—how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here's the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.


I'm not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don't hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn't crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they've assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they've stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.


I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn't drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don't like how they're being treated—and who could blame them?—I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.


When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to "hope" at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.


When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we're in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free—truly free—to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.



PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, "If things are so bad, why don't you just kill yourself?" The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.

Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.

Another question people sometimes ask me is, "If things are so bad, why don't you just party?" Well, the first answer is that I don't really like to party. The second is that I'm already having a great deal of fun. I love my life. I love life. This is true for most activists I know. We are doing what we love, fighting for what (and whom) we love.


I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I've learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction—the use of any excuse to justify inaction—reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.


At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn't matter, he said, and it's egotistical to think it does.


I told him I disagreed.


Doesn't activism make you feel good? he asked.


Of course, I said, but that's not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.


Why?


Because I'm in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don't determine whether or not you make the effort. You don't simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn't cause me to protect those I love, it's not love.



A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn't kill you. It didn't even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there's a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you're dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.


And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you. The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase—not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture.


When you give up on hope—when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive—you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooption on themselves?


But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.


When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.


And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you're wondering, that's a very good thing.

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