Documentary: If a Tree Falls

March 6, 2012 – 8:33 pm

Last weekend, I enjoyed watching If a Tree Fallsa documentary about a group of arsonists in the Earth Liberation Front. The film was both educational and a fascinating story. It illuminates some important aspects to environmental activism in the 1990s and early 2000s and the filmmakers do a great job of answering an obvious question: what were the arsonists thinking? It also has an interesting sort of reverse mystery — we already know whodunnit, but it’s interesting to see who figured it out and how.

One of the fun things for me in watching the story unfold was that I remember seeing news stories about a lot of the events in the film and I feel like I have been on the periphery of the communities in which the events took place. I remember protesting old-growth logging with a youth environmental group when I was in high school. I remember hearing about the “black bloc” anarchists from friends who attended the Seattle WTO protests when I was in college. I remember hearing about the burning of a scientific poplar plantation in Oregon from a guest speaker at CU as a grad student.

While I obviously don’t agree with arson as a tactic, I and many other environmentalists are in the awkward position of agreeing with the arsonists on some of the issues that motivated them. For example, it is in fact tragic and shortsighted to clear-cut the few remaining old growth forests on the west coast. Also, the frenzy to brand people “terrorists” so that prosecutors and law enforcement can claim to have bagged them is worrisome. In the end, I don’t think their misguided approach to addressing these problems has had a huge impact one way or another because it is clear that they are well outside of the mainstream.

  1. 4 Responses to “Documentary: If a Tree Falls”

  2. What was the role of black-bloc? I’m curious because they’ve been pretty active in Oakland lately (mostly doing stupid stuff during Occupy protests like breaking Whole Foods windows and antagonizing the police) including starting the riots over Oscar Grant last year.

    By Jeanette on Mar 8, 2012

  3. Also going to watch the documentary!

    By Jeanette on Mar 8, 2012

  4. Cool, I think you will enjoy it.

    The role of the black bloc, as I remember my friends telling me, was to mar otherwise peaceful protests with looting and violence. So it sounds pretty similar to what you describe in Oakland.

    I remember Dave’s and my friend Steve getting up in from of our environmental studies class and talking about his trip to Seattle. He really wanted to emphasize how peaceful everyone was except for the few black bloc “anarchists,” whom he portrayed as ruining things for everyone else since they got the most media attention.

    By Anthony on Mar 9, 2012

  5. Haha, that’s *exactly* what they’ve been doing in Oakland. They’re a pesky bunch.

    By Jeanette on Mar 9, 2012

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