Review: “The Evan Mecham Eco Terrorist International Conspiracy” by Leslie James Pickering

2 Apr

Cross Posted from the Vegan Police

We’ve followed, and been fans of Leslie’s writing on this site and I was excited recently to head over to Leslie’s radical book store  Burning Books – in Buffalo, NY to give a talk. The place is full of books I’d love to take home, but I made it a priority to pick up Leslie’s latest – a zine detailing the history of EMETIC or the Evan Mecham Eco Terrorist International Conspiracy.

I cracked the zine open the next night hoping to read a bit and fall asleep as we had big march planned for the next day. I ended up blowing through the 59 pages in one go – trading sleep for inspiration.

The zine is well researched, and presented with a focus only possible for folks who have been on the front lines like Leslie has – Leslie served as a co-founder for the Earth Liberation Front Press Office from 1999-2002. The first half of the text is a history of EMETIC and the second half is an interview with EMETIC defendant Peg Millett. In each section the focus really pushes the text as a how-to; how to organize on a coalition basis, how to survive prison, how to watch for signs of infiltration and repression, etc. Aside from this, the text also does a great job of linking EMETIC, a radical break away group of Earth First!ers in the late 80’s who were doing large scale property destruction and “ecotage,” to what would be the development of the Earth Liberation Front in the late 90’s.

Leslie recounts the motivation for the zine as countering a mythology and romanticism that surrounded histories of the Earth Liberation Front and attempting to create a movement history that is grounded in realistic narratives (human flaws and all) alongside information meant to be inspiration and applicable. As someone who worked on a project with a similar focus – the Conflict Gypsy archive – I fundamentally believe in this vision and know the exact issues with what Leslie is countering – where movement romanticism becomes a priority above action.

This is a must for folks interested in radical history, especially for those who are interested in the roots of the modern earth liberation movements. The intersectional focus of the EMETIC crowd – who organized in solidarity with Navajo and Hopi Nations and took on mining, development and the nuclear industry – is also something that many in the earth and animal liberation movements should brush up on. Our movements started from a broad base and only through co-option (non profit and otherwise) have their focuses narrowed and become isolated.

This is also a timely text as large non-profits like 350.org and the Sierra Club are using mass civil disobedience to oppose pipelines and environmental destruction – but with unknown long term results. The text is vital to understanding how the non profit world has consistently denounced property destruction and facilitated capitalism – but we now stand on the verge of large scale projects that are unlikely to be swayed any other way.

The highlight of the zine – and the reason it was so easy to read in one sitting – is the fact that this serious focus is matched with the absurd humor that EMETIC employed, as well as, the frankness of Peg Millett. The history behind their acronym, and communiques like, “The use of this mountain to entertain rich white people by allowing them to slide down without bother of walking up is inappropriate” make it easy to identify with folks who knew they were taking a very serious step – but who also knew that macho bravado or rhetoric wasn’t the spirit of what drove their actions.

The zine is cheap – $4/$5 – and I’d highly suggest picking up a copy. This is the type of movement history you will not find anywhere else (which is a theme with Leslie as his biography of “Mad Bomber Melville” is a similar must.) If you can – also make it out to Burning Books in Buffalo and support what they are doing with their radical space/bookstore. Leslie’s got a bunch of stories still not on paper and it’s vital that those stories – and histories – keep getting passed on.

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