A radical network of environmental activism, Earth First! runs two annual major events in Britain, the Winter Moot in the early part of the year and a Summer gathering, taking place this year on August 15th-20th in Sussex. Below, an organiser with the gathering writes on EF!s ethos, beginnings and why the gatherings have been gaining strength over the last few years.
The aim of the Earth First! Summer Gathering is to provide a space to meet up, share practical skills, learn from and inspire each other, discuss ideas to make our actions and campaigns as strategic and effective as possible and build the world we want to live in. We also hope that there’ll be a fair amount of plotting and planning, as well as fun and relaxation.
It’s a chance to act out a little of our vision: organising non-hierarchically, supporting each other, celebrating diversity within community, living sustainably and a DIY culture that supports both individual responsibility and collective action, that builds trust, mutual aid, respect and community, whilst enabling healthy debate and challenging discussion.
The gathering consists of six days of workshops, networking and planning actions, run without leaders by everyone who comes along, so come prepared to chip in!
The last few years have seen a huge increase in interest in Earth First! with many new people, groups and workshops. This exciting resurgence in Britain is being driven by the growing threats from fracking, nuclear, bioenergy, GM, roadbuilding, incineration and more, which are focusing many people’s attention on the growing need to halt the destruction of our battered ecosystems and start repairing the damage that has been done. We also now have a full stream of animal rights-focussed workshops as we have many skills to share with each other, and campaigns often cross over.
What is EF!?
Earth First! was formed in the UK in 1991, in response to an increasingly corporate, compromising and ineffective environmental community. It is not an organisation, but a movement. There are no ‘members’ of EF!, only Earth First!ers. We believe in using all of the tools in the toolbox, from grassroots and legal organising to direct action and monkeywrenching.
The general principles behind Earth First! are non-hierarchical organisation and the use of direct action to confront, stop and reverse the forces responsible for the destruction of the Earth and its inhabitants.
EF! is not a cohesive group or campaign, but a convenient banner for people who share similar philosophies.
If you agree with the above and you are not racist or otherwise discriminatory, if you believe action speaks louder than words, then Earth First! is for you.
Whether you think of EF! as a movement, a network, an idea or simply a name to use for actions, get involved — you are Earth First! Our structure is without formal leadership and we do it for passion, love and rage. To put it simply, the Earth must come first.
Why Earth First!? Why Now?
While the multitude of today’s environmental NGOs all started small, with high ideals and a can-do attitude, they soon foundered on the rocks of corporatism.
Take any group of well-meaning people, put them in a big office and pay them reasonable salaries, and they will soon find it increasingly difficult not to make compromises, to preserve the flow of money which sustains them.
The present system is completely dependent on continual economic growth and that very growth can only be achieved by consuming more and more resources, producing more and more waste. Saving the planet, and ourselves, implicitly means destroying the very system which mainstream organisations are a part of.
Mainstream environmentalism has become compromised and ineffective while the threats we face now ever more urgent. Meanwhile a tidal wave of corporate greenwash, almost invisible it is so prevalent, is seeking to confuse, distract and delay any resistance to an ever more aggressive push to monetise, and destroy, what remains of the natural world.
Without people who will take a principled stand, tell it like it is and offer a vision of a world which is not centred on the system that is destroying it, we are all doomed. Currently, if there is anywhere that those people might come together, be inspired and supported, it is Earth First!
At its best EF!’s style offers a way forward. We aren’t rebelling against the system because we are sour on life, we are fighting for beauty, for life, for joy.
We laugh at our opponents and we laugh at ourselves, we are willing to let our actions set the finer points of our philosophy rather than debating endlessly about our programme. We are willing to get started now, make mistakes, to learn as we go.
When mounting threats from all sides are driving a renewed awareness of the importance of defending and repairing our battered ecosystems, the resurgence of Earth First! in Britain is a hopeful sign. Whether we can all make it live up to this promise is a question for the future, but right now it is a very small oasis in a very large desert. Let us drink our fill, and be more possible than they can powerfully imagine.
For info email site at earthfirstgathering.org
This article first appeared in the Summer edition of Freedom Journal