How about earth year? How about Earth century? How about planning a different future? An impossible futurism of environmental liberation.
Like many other movements today, we in the ecology/environmental movement are offered our token moment of celebration (and most don’t celebrate it anyway). This now internationally celebrated date began in the wake of the New Left and inaugurated a new focus for direct action worldwide, Earth Day changed the way that politics works in the US. It inaugurated the grassroots struggle toward emancipation of society, but with this emancipatory ethic it also moved toward decolonization and liberation of all oppressed people under industrial development. Many in the newly formed environmental movement stood in solidarity with the American Indian Movement, indigenous movements in Papua New Guinea, and so on.
At the same time, groups like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd grew to tremendous size through widely publicized direct incursions against whaling vessels on the high seas. The anti-nukes movement brought grassroots direct action to a new level, successfully halting the expansion of the nuclear power gravy train. At the end of the 1970s, however, much of the fervor of the original Earth Day subsided into a rich, almost entirely white, environmental establishment driven by power towards a hierarchy of political interests. That’s why in 1979 a handful of drunken rednecks clenched the mighty fist of ecodefense with the rallying cry, “Earth First!” that we carry forward today.
Earth First! has kicked a lot of ass since the bewildering adventure that brought together IWW strategy, anti-nukes tactics, and an ahead-of-its-time critique of the nascent nonprofit complex. We forward actions like blockading and sabotaging the industrial “development” of modern “civilization,” recognizing that the opportunity for progress and evolution of our planet is annihilated by the stupid, profit-driven assault on life. Just like the saying “Liberate May Day” has emerged to mark the importance of housing justice and antiracist struggle, we are calling for a decolonization of Earth Day that would remember different calendars of resistance, different times and places of struggle, renewed understanding of our planetary system and the universal cycles and movements of life.
Obama’s clarion call to “change” and “hope” may have stimulated mass mobilizations, but the result of his environmental policy has been the opposite: we have found after 4 years a total subversion of all that is natural, dynamic, changing, and growing in our lives. With a greenwashing that Edward Bernays would have found compelling, the current administration has seen through a torpid mishandling of all environmental policies—from fracking regulation to mountaintop removal to deforestation and GMOs. Nothing has changed but the climate.
The public appearance of domestic environmental regulation dwindles behind the closed doors of lobby meetings, while major investors grab agricultural and mining interests around the world to ensure a foothold in a geopolitical struggle against the rising financial centers in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The image of today’s inter-imperialist land grab is compared by many to the Scramble for Africa, yet it is frequently denied or ignored in major media channels. Not only does this present a serious crisis in terms of agricultural production (transforming food land into cash crop monoculture in some of the poorest, most starved countries in the world), but it indicates an aggressive advance of the extractionist agenda, making the poor poorer and the rich richer.
Even the UN itself, spurred on by France and the US, has become involved in aggressive operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to purge for extraction areas with promising natural resources. With industry as their whip, capitalists will continue to plunder the world and leave gaping pits of despair in the soul of being as they ‘develop’ the world’s population over the cliff of climate change.
We cannot enjoy an Earth Day that does not call for the emancipation of the workers, decolonization of indigenous peoples, liberation of the dispossessed, slum dwellers, campesin@s, and small farmers. As long as we participate in the transformation of our industrialized and privatized imaginations into a world of creative struggle and collective liberation, we will not know “Earth Day,” but the Earth, itself, as it exists for us, with us, through us, and as we exist for it.
Remember the Luddites, the Robin Hoods, the Black Seminoles and freedom fighters of the world. Down with all false borders, fire to the prisons, liberate and decolonize Earth Day, and deliver the world into the promise of community that tomorrow holds.