This is a press release by Process of Liberation of Mother Earth, originally published in Liberacion de la Madre Tierra. The Nasa people of Cauca had been pushed to the mountains by the invaders in the 16th century. For the past 17 years, they have shifted to direct action to get back their land. Although their pursuit had been disrupted in the past, they have now stayed in their original land despite state attempts to remove them. Both right leaning and left leaning governments have attempted to remove them from their rights to their land. DGR extends our solidarity to the Nasa people of Cauca valley in their struggle for land reclamation.
Now that the 48 hours have passed, we send this letter to the world to tell about our struggle and the danger that awaits us, and what we are going to do in face of the danger. The great chief sent word, that we are invaders and gives us 48 hours to abandon our struggle and the land where we fight, or the full weight of the law of the Colombian state will fall on us.
First we tell you about our struggle. This last September 2nd, 17 years have passed since we returned to direct action to fight for the land, a struggle that has roots in 1538, when our people decided to declare war to the invaders. The invaders took over our land and pushed us into the mountains, the invaders made of dispossession a way of life, the how of their civilization, and today they have in their possession the most fertile lands and they have documents that prove they own and they are an organized power that moves the strings of politics and economy and justice and the media in Colombia to keep the documents up to date and to exploit Mother Earth more and more until skinning her and sucking her blood and digging into her entrails and this is called progress, development.
For us, families of the Nasa people of northern Cauca, the land is Uma Kiwe, our mother. Everything that is in it has life, all of it is life, all beings are our brothers and sisters and all beings are worth the same. The invader indoctrinated us to teach us that we humans are outside our Mother and that we are superior to her, but deep in our hearts, nasa üus, we know that people are Uma Kiwe just like the condor and the butterfly and the corn and the stone are Uma Kiwe. The invader indoctrinated us to teach us that the moor is a resource that produces money, that by cutting down the jungle we can increase bank accounts, that by digging into Uma Kiwe’s entrails with large tubes we can access a life of well-being. That is the word of the invader and he calls it the goal, the life plan.
The lands of the Cauca river valley, where we now live, from where we fight, is the house and home of hundreds of animals, plants, rocks, waters, spirits, in a way of life that in Spanish they called tropical dry forest. The invader destroyed everything, that house and home no longer exist, he has damaged the face of Mother Earth. In their eagerness to impose their civilization, those who have the documents of these lands, planted the entire valley of the Cauca River with sugarcane and there are 400 thousand hectares where the cane is planted up to the riverbank. In other regions of Colombia, the invader displaced communities with war and planted oil palm on thousands and thousands of hectares, and in other regions they have displaced communities to build dams or to extract gold or petroleum.
And once, in a region called Antioquia, the Cauca River rebelled and damaged the machines and equipment of the dam and it overflowed and the people who had already been displaced by the hydroelectric project had to move again because once again their lands were flooded. For these facts there are no guilty parties, the invaders of the Cauca River, the displacers of those communities and those who committed the massacres to impose development, have not yet received the full weight of the law of the Colombian state. And so, every corner of this country they call Colombia, the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America, is made up of patches of development projects installed where the war displaced entire communities, where the forests, moors, savannahs, mountains, jungles and plains were or are being razed so that a few people can enjoy the honeys of development.
We, the indigenous families of the Nasa people who walk the struggle platform of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC -by its acronym in Spanish), our organization, we don’t believe in that development and we don’t believe in that civilization that imposes death through laws and legal actions to generate coins. They indoctrinated us to believe in their civilization and told us that humans are superior to other beings, but we see that among humans there are levels, some humans who are superior than others, the superiors take all the wealth and the inferiors have to live cornered in the corners that development leaves us available, but they tell us that if we try hard or sell ourselves we can rise to the level of the superiors. We don’t like that way of life, we don’t accept it.
That is why 17 years ago, on September 2, 2005, we came down from the mountains to make a struggle that we continue today and that we have called the liberation of Mother Earth. Because we say that people will not be free while Uma Kiwe is enslaved, that all animals and beings in life are slaves until we get our mother to recover her freedom. At that time, September 2005, we had a tactical error, as one liberator said, and we negotiated an agreement with the Uribe government, an error that cost us a nine-year delay. But then we came back to enter the sugarcane agribusiness farms in December 2014, which means that we are almost eight years old, and in these eight years the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America has not managed to evict us from the farms despite more than 400 attempts, and we are not going to leave, and we have been advancing by entering in these lands, so much that we already have 24 farms in process of liberation, already eight thousand hectares.
When we enter the farms we cut the cane and instead of the cane the food we sow grows, the forest also grow because Uma Kiwe has to rest, chickens, ducks, cows and little pigs grow, wild animals return… We are returning the skin and the face to Mother Earth. That is our dream, or if you prefer, our life plan. And there is still a long way to go, sometimes the word of the invader arrives and confuses us, but as a community we are talking and clarifying things. And other times the media from agribusiness or power in Colombia arrive and brand us as terrorists, lazy, that we slow down development, and tell us that we are invaders, as the current government of Petro and Francia says, and now they have planted the lie that we are stealing the land from our neighbors of the Afro-descendant communities who live cornered on the banks of the cane fields: what we can tell you with complete certainty is that the documents of the 24 farms that are in process of liberation, they are listed in the name of Incauca, the largest owner, and other landowners, or their land is leased to Incauca or other mills that process cane for sugar or agrofuels.
And also the judicial apparatus of Colombian democracy says that because we are terrorists they are going to capture us at checkpoints or with arrest warrants and they are going to take us to jail. And the paramilitaries, organized by the sugar cane agribusiness say that since the Colombian state has not managed to kill us, they are going to do it and they have already arrived at the farms in process of liberation to shoot us with short and long range weapons, but our range is longer because we already know how they are organized and how they work. And the agro-industrialists -Incauca, Asocaña, Procaña- have been sending us negotiation or association proposals for seven years and we have answered NO because a struggle is not negotiated and NO because for them being partners means that we put the labor as cheap as possible and that they provide the capital, NO gentlemen, we are not here to change bosses, we fight so that there are no more bosses.
And now that a new government and a new congress have arrived to strengthen the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America, the congress tells us that we can send proposals for the agrarian reform law “because the liberation of Mother Earth is a concrete agrarian reform”; we haven’t responded yet, but we know how to restore the balance of Uma Kiwe, our Mother Earth, and it goes far beyond an agrarian reform. And the latest thing that has happened is that the new government of President Petro and Vice President Francia tell us that we are invaders and that we have 48 hours to leave these lands where we fight, we sow, we graze, we watch the forest grow and the wild animals return, well, in this land where we live, and that’s how we started this letter.
At the end of 48 hours, this September 2, the state attacked with the army and esmad (Mobile Anti-riot Squadron (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios or ESMAD), there was no half hour of dialogue, as the new government had promised, the tank came in shooting gas. Later the army fired its long-range weapons against us, the communities that are liberating Mother Earth, there was no dialogue either. 17 years ago, on September 2, 2005, it was Uribe who ordered the esmad and the army to fire their weapons at us. This new government is from the left, the Uribe government was from the right. After eight hours of trying to evict us from one of the farms in process of liberation, the esmad and the army of the oldest democracy… they failed to evict us, here we continue, from here we launch this letter to the world.
We, the process of liberation of Mother Earth in northern Cauca, send word to the great chief that we are NOT going to evict, that here in these lands we are staying because this is our home to live and fight II. We say II because before we have already written that this is our home to live and fight I. At that time, 2018, the paramilitaries gave us a deadline to leave this land, but the paramilitaries gave us a slightly longer, more rational deadline, because they gave us two months, and when the two months were up we told them NO, that we couldn’t leave because this is our house to live and fight. That’s why we say II, because despite everything we don’t lose our smile. And you have to know that neither Uribe, nor Santos, nor Duque ever told us “they have 48 hours.” And we also tell you that we are not leaving because here in these lands in process of liberation, 12 compañerxs have fallen since 2005, murdered by the private company of Incauca, Asocaña and Procaña, and by the Colombian state. Here we already take root. We continue here until the government completes the process of delivering the documents to our indigenous authorities, either through agrarian reform or by the fastest way, and if it doesn´t happen, for the years of the years, we will continue here.
We also sent word to the great chief that we are going to enter in other farms because our struggle doesn’t stop. Yesterday we were in a great action to accompany a community that is liberating a farm because the esmad has been bothering them with gas every day for several days, despite the fact that they promised us that the esmad was going to end, then to transform and then that it was going to change it’s clothes, and it’s true because they wear a sports uniform for a soccer game while here they continue to shoot gas at us. We will continue our actions to root ourselves more with this land , so that our word has sustenance, because otherwise it would be like a decree or a campaign promise, which is written and signed but not fulfilled.
To the communities that in other regions of Colombia are fighting directly for the land, we invite to not leave the farms. We invite more families, more communities in the northern Cauca and in Colombia and in the world to enter in more farms and take possession and build life and community as we are already doing in these lands, the same way as many struggles that have been branded as invaders by the great chiefs of the country, because no fight has been won with little kisses on the cheek.
We also send word to our compañerxs who are now in the power of the Colombian state not to get tangled up along the way. Because they have walked alongside our struggles but now we see that they are forgetting where they come from, something that can happen to anyone who reaches a peak, who doesn´t see that after the top comes the descent. That is why we also sent word that we will enter to another farm where we will carry out rituals and plant food to share with them and we will pray for them so that when they finish their time in the state they continue to be the same people who one day arrived there with the votes of millions of people who saw in them some kind of hope.
So far this letter ends, but our word goes on. We write our word on the farms where we are liberating, that is our first word. The documents, the letters, the videos, the radio…, the second word, that helps us to tell the world what we do, the danger that awaits us and how we will continue walking in the face of danger. Thanks to the struggles and peoples of the world who listen to us and stand in solidarity with us. As we have already said in “this is our house to live and fight I”, the best way to support us is to strengthen your fight: it will be very difficult for capitalism to evict or bring down with the full weight of the law thousands and thousands of battles throughout the world.
Editor’s note: Any movement, if effective in challenging the status quo, is bound to face persecution from the state. The persecution may come in many forms, from defamation, to legal action, to outright murder. The twenty year long COINTELPRO program was run by the FBI to destabilize many movements including African-American, Native Americans and communist movements across the United States. A variety of methods was used to achieve the goal.
The Green Scare is the set of tactics used by FBI in the early twenty-first century to discredit and persecute the radical environmental movement. The following article discusses the Green Scare, putting it in context of the recent demise of Dave Foreman, a found of Earth First! and an early target of Green Scare.
Dave Foreman, whose vision spawned a radical wave of the US environmental movement, passed away this week at the age of 74 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was controversial, he was stubborn, but he wasn’t one to compromise the fight to save wilderness and open space. The following piece on Foreman’s foray with federal law enforcement first appeared in our book, The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. – Jeffrey St. Clair & Joshua Frank
Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!, awoke at five in the morning on May 30, 1989, to the sound of three FBI agents shouting his name in his Tucson, Arizona home. Foreman’s wife Nancy answered the door frantically and was shoved aside by brawny FBI agents as they raced toward their master bedroom where her husband was sound asleep, naked under the sheets, with plugs jammed in his ears to drown out the noise of their neighbor’s barking Doberman pincher. By the time Foreman came to, the agents were surrounding his bed in bulletproof vests wielding .357 Magnums.
He immediately thought of the murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago, expecting to be shot in cold blood. But as Foreman put it, “Being a nice, middle-class honky male, they can’t get away with that stuff quite as easily as they could with Fred, or with all the Native people on the Pine Ridge Reservation back in the early 70s.”
So instead of firing off a few rounds, they jerked a dazed Foreman from his slumber, let him pull on a pair of shorts, and hauled him outside where they threw him in the back of an unmarked vehicle. It took over six hours before Foreman even knew why he had been accosted by Federal agents.
Foreman’s arrest was the culmination of three years and two million tax dollars spent in an attempt to frame a few Earth First! activists for conspiring to damage government and private property. The FBI infiltrated Earth First! groups in several states with informants and undercover agent-provocateurs. Over 500 hours of tape recordings of meetings, events, and casual conversations had been amassed. Phones had been tapped and homes were broken into. The FBI was doing its best to intimidate radical environmentalists across the country, marking them as a potential threat to national security.
It was the FBI’s first case of Green Scare.
The day before Foreman was yanked from bed and lugged into the warm Arizona morning, two so-called co-conspirators, biologist Marc Baker and antinuclear activist Mark Davis were arrested by some 50 agents on horseback and on foot, with a helicopter hovering above as they stood at the base of a power line tower in the middle of desert country in Wenden, Arizona, 200 miles northwest of Foreman’s home. The next day Peg Millet, a self-described “redneck woman for wilderness,” was arrested at a nearby Planned Parenthood where she worked. Millet earlier evaded the FBI’s dragnet.
Driven to the site by an undercover FBI agent, the entire episode, as Foreman put it, was the agent’s conception. Foreman, described by the bureau as the guru and financier of the operation, was also pegged for having thought up the whole elaborate scheme, despite the fact that their evidence was thin.
Back in the 1970s, the FBI issued a memo to their field offices stating that when attempting to break up dissident groups, the most effective route was to forget about hard intelligence or facts. Simply make a few arrests and hold a public press conference. Charges could later be dropped. It didn’t matter; by the time the news hit the airwaves and was printed up in the local newspapers, the damage had already been done.
It was the FBI’s assertion that the action stopped by the arrests under that Arizona power line in late May 1989, was to be a test run for a much grander plot involving Davis, Baker, Millet, and the group’s leader, Dave Foreman. The FBI charged the four with the intent to damage electrical transmission lines that lead to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility in Colorado.
“The big lie that the FBI pushed at their press conference the day after the arrests were that we were a bunch of terrorists conspiring to cut the power lines into the Palo Verde and Diablo Canyon nuclear facilities in order to cause a nuclear meltdown and threaten public health and safety,” explained Foreman.
In the late 1980s, the FBI launched operation THERMCON in response to an act of sabotage of the Arizona Snowbowl ski lift near Flagstaff, Arizona that occurred in October 1987, allegedly by Davis, Millet, and Baker. Acting under the quirky name, Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy (EMETIC) — the eco-saboteurs wrecked several of the company’s ski lifts, claiming that structures were cutting into areas of significant biological importance.
This was not the first act the group claimed responsibility for. A year prior EMETIC sent a letter declaring they inflicted damage at the Fairfield Snow Bowl near Flagstaff. The group’s letter also included a jovial threat to “chain the Fairfield CEO to a tree at the 10,000-foot level and feed him shrubs and roots until he understands the suicidal folly of treating the planet primarily as a tool for making money.”
The group used an acetylene torch to cut bolts from several of the lift’s support towers, making them inoperable. Upon receiving the letter, the Arizona ski resort was forced to shut down the lift in order to do repairs, which rang up to over $50,000.
But the big allegations heaved at these eco-saboteurs weren’t for dislodging a few bolts at a quaint ski resort in the heart of the Arizona mountains, or for inconveniencing a few ski bums from their daily excursions. No, the big charges were levied at the group for allegedly plotting to disrupt the functions of the Rocky Flats nuclear facility hundreds of miles away. Ironically, at the moment of their arrests, the FBI was simultaneously looking into public health concerns due to an illegal radioactive waste leak at the nuclear power site, which led Earth First! activist Mike Roselle to quip, “ [the FBI] would have discharged its duty better by assisting in a conspiracy to cut power to Rocky Flats, instead of trying to stop one.”
Gerry Spence climbed into his private jet in Jackson, Wyoming estate almost immediately upon hearing about the FBI arrest of Dave Foreman in Arizona. Spence had made a name for himself among environmental activists in the late-1970s for his case against energy company Kerr-McGee, when he provided legal services to the family of former employee Karen Silkwood, who died suspiciously after she charged the company with environmental abuses at one of their most productive nuclear facilities. Silkwood, who made plutonium pellets for nuclear reactors, had been assigned by her union to investigate health and safety concerns at a Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. In her monitoring of the facility, Silkwood found dozens of evident regulatory violations, including faulty respiratory equipment as well as many cases of workers being exposed to radioactive material.
Silkwood went public after her employer ignored her and her union’s concerns, even going as far as to testify to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) about the issues, claiming that regulations were sidestepped in an attempt to up the speed of production. She also claimed that workers had been mishandling nuclear fuel rods, but the company has covered up the incidences by falsifying inspection reports.
On the night of November 13, 1974, Silkwood left a union meeting in Crescent with documents in hand to drive to Oklahoma City where she was to meet and discuss Kerr-McGee’s alleged violations with a union official and two New York Times reporters. She never made it. Silkwood’s body was found the next day in the driver’s seat of her car on the side of the road, stuck in a culvert. She was pronounced dead on the scene and no documents were found in her vehicle.
An independent private investigation revealed that Silkwood was in full control of her car when it was struck from behind and forced off to the side of the road. According to the private investigators, the steering wheel of her car was bent in a manner that showed conclusively that Silkwood was prepared for the blow of the accident as it occurred. She had not been asleep at the wheel as investigators initially thought. The coroner concluded she had not died as a result of the accident, but possibly from suffocation.
No arrests or charges were ever made. Silkwood’s children and father filed a lawsuit against Kerr-McGee on behalf of her estate. Gerry Spence was their lead attorney. An autopsy of Silkwood’s body showed extremely high levels of plutonium contamination. Lawyers for Kerr-McGee argued first that the levels found were in the normal range. but after evidence was presented to the contrary, they were forced to argue that Silkwood had likely poisoned herself.
Spence had been victorious. Kerr-McGee’s defense was caught in a series of unavoidable contradictions. Silkwood’s body was laden with poison as a result of her work at the nuclear facility. In her death, Spence vindicated her well-documented claims. The initial jury verdict was for the company to pay $505,000 in damages and $10,000,000 in punitive damages. Kerr-McGee appealed and drastically reduced the jury’s verdict, but the initial ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court. On the way to a retrial, the company agreed to pay $1.38 million to the Silkwood estate.
Gerry Spence was not cowed by the antics of the Kerr-McGee Corporation, and when he agreed to take on Dave Foreman’s case pro-bono, justice seemed to be on the horizon for Earth First! activists as well.
“Picture a little guy out there hacking at a dead steel pole, an inanimate object, with a blowtorch. He’s considered a criminal,” said Spence, explaining how he planned to steer the narrative of Foreman’s pending trial. “Now see the image of a beautiful, living, 400-year-old-tree, with an inanimate object hacking away at it. This non-living thing is corporate America, but the corporate executives are not considered criminals at all.”
Like so many of the FBI charges brought against radical activists throughout the years, the case against Dave Foreman was less exciting than the investigation that led up to his arrest. The bureau had done its best to make Foreman and Earth First! out to be the most threatening activists in America.
Spence was not impressed and in fact argued as much, stating the scope of the FBI’s operation THERMCON was “very similar to the procedures the FBI used during the 1960s against dissident groups.” Spence was right. Similar to the movement disruption exemplified by COINTELPRO against Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, and the American Indian Movement, the FBI’s crackdown on Earth First! in the late 1980s had many alarming parallels to the agency of old.
“Essentially what we need to understand is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was formed during the Palmer Raids in 1921, was set up from the very beginning to inhibit internal political dissent. They rarely go after criminals. They’re thought police,” said Foreman of the FBI’s motives for targeting environmentalists. “Let’s face it, that’s what the whole government is. Foreman’s first law of government reads that the purpose of the state, and all its constituent elements, is the defense of an entrenched economic elite and philosophical orthodoxy. Thankfully, there’s a corollary to that law—they aren’t always very smart and competent in carrying out their plans.”
The man who was paid to infiltrate Earth First! under the guise of THERMCON was anything but competent. Special agent Michael A. Fain, stationed in the FBI’s Phoenix office, befriended Peg Millet and began attending Earth First! meetings in the area. Fain, who went by the alias, Mike Tait, posed as a Vietnam vet who dabbled in construction and gave up booze after his military service. On more than one occasion, while wearing a wire, Fain had tried to entice members of Earth First! in different acts of vandalism. They repeatedly refused.
During pre-trial evidence discovery, the defense was allowed to listen to hours of Fain’s wire-tapings, when they found that the not-so-careful agent inadvertently forgot to turn off his recorder. Fain, while having a conversation with two other agents at a Burger King after a brief meeting with Foreman, spoke about the status of his investigation, exclaiming, “I don’t really look for them to be doing a lot of hurting people… [Dave Foreman] isn’t really the guy we need to pop — I mean in terms of an actual perpetrator. This is the guy we need to pop to send a message. And that’s all we’re really doing… Uh-oh! We don’t need that on tape! Hoo boy!”
Here the FBI was publicly vilifying these Earth First!ers, while privately admitting that they posed no real threat. “[The agency is acting] as if [its] dealing with the most dangerous, violent terrorists that the country’s ever known,” explained Spence at the time. “And what we are really dealing with is ordinary, decent human beings who are trying to call the attention of America to the fact that the Earth is dying.”
The FBI’s rationale for targeting Foreman was purely political as he was one of the most prominent and well-spoken radical environmentalists of the time. Despite their claims that they were not directly targeting Earth First! or Foreman, and were instead investigating threats of sabotage of power lines that led to a nuclear power plant — their public indictment painted quite a different story.
“Mr. Foreman is the worst of the group,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Dokken announced to the court. “He sneaks around in the background … I don’t like to use the analogy of a Mafia boss, but they never do anything either. They just sent their munchkins out to do it.”
But agent Michael Fain’s on-tape gaffes were simply too much for the prosecution to manage, and the case against Foreman, having been deferred almost seven years, was finally reduced in 1996 to a single misdemeanor and a meager $250 in fines. The $2 million the FBI wasted tracking Earth First! over the latter part of the 1980s had only been nominally successful. Yet the alleged ringleader was still free. Unfortunately, the FBI may have gotten exactly what they wanted all along. Dave Foreman later stepped down as spokesman to Earth First! and inherited quite a different role in the environmental movement — one of invisibility and near silence.
Peg Millet, Mark Davis, and Marc Baker were all sentenced separately in 1991 for their involvement in their group EMETIC’s acts of ecotage against the expansion of Arizona Snowbowl. Davis got 6 years and $19,821 in restitution. Millet only 3 years, with the same fine, while Baker only received 6 months and a $5,000 fine.
Little did these activists know that their capture and subsequent arraignments were only the beginning. THERMCON’s crackdown of Earth First! would prove to be a dry-run for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
This is part 1 of an episode of the Green Flame. This episode tries to answer the challenging question: What comes after Industrial Civilization? In this part, Max Wilbert talks with Michel Jacobi. Michel Jacoboi is a German, but he’s living in the Western part of Ukraine trying to reverse breed some of the extinct large animals of the European countryside back into existence and work with these creatures as assistants and as allies, in the process of restoring the land. Part 2 of the episode is with Lierre Keith, author of ‘The Vegetarian Myth’ and someone who has studied food systems, sustainability, agriculture and soils for many years, will be featured shortly.
Max: I’m here today with Michel Jacobi. Michel is somebody who’s becoming an expert in local food; in relocalisation; in rewilding of lanscapes using animals as allies, friends and community members in that process. Michel, could you tell us a little bit about you, who are you and what your work is and where you’re located?
Michel: Yes, I’m a German forestry engineer and I came 11 years ago from Germany and started to build up a farm for rare domestic breeds, and have been rescuing the water buffaloes that exist here in the mountains of Western Ukraine. It’s the Carpathian mountains, where we still have huge diversity. And some part of the landscape has once been all over Central Europe, because here we have the biggest virgin forest of Fagus Sylvatica, the European red beach.
So I was first interested to rescue these trees and the forest systems. I realized that the communities here – the locals are called Ruthianians – they are still quite powerful. The national parks that are located here they cannot save anything if they are not working with the locals together. So I started with the shepherds here, I learned the local dialect and collected some money in Switzerland with my NGO and could buy a few animals that had been in the slaughterhouse. They were male buffaloes, and after a while, I was the only one in the whole state that was breeding or keeping male water buffaloes.
So then I became quite famous among those people that still have water buffaloes and I helped them to keep them by exchanging the males from village to village so that the people can afford to keep females. The males are quite cost intensive and our NGO was managing this and through that I got quite famous. The circumstances here are quite hard and nearly no foreigners are living here. Most people from Zakarpattia go abroad to work and just live here in their free time. So, our NGO is still now, more or less, the only nature/environmental NGO that is working in the whole state and we are not only saving water buffaloes but we keep very rare Hucul horses, that is the local mountain pony with Zebra stripes. It is very close to the extinct Tarpan that once lived here in the mountains.
We also started to rescue a rare cow breed. I realised that the cow is a very central part of a self-sufficient community and people really loved what I’m doing. The local people felt they remembered former times because I learned from the shepherds how things used to be. They are quite old school. So even the richer locals started supporting me and I made cheese products from the buffaloes, from the buffalo milk, which is also quite unique because the water buffaloes are quite special in their behaviour. They are highly intelligent animals so it was weird for the locals that a German engineer is able to milk those buffaloes.
I learned from the buffaloes that you cannot force them, you have to act with them like a child. When you use force of violence they will refuse to give you anything. The local people here seem to be very traumatised by this collapsed regime that was here till the 90s So they forget how to keep those buffaloes and they told me like 60 or 70 years ago there had been thousands of them. When I arrived in 2008 I could just find 38 animals. Now we have more than 100 to 180 and they are in several projects such as rewilding Ukraine.
They keep the buffaloes in national parks and I started several farms just supporting people. We (me and my girlfriend) just have seven animals now but we’re managing five bull lines to keep up the diversity and live self-sufficiently. Having a garden, planting trees and exchanging products is called barter. I have a very nice family in Germany. Each time, when I had huge trouble I could go home and work there and make some money and bring it here to buy the hay because it was not always easy. When you rely on tourism or on external money, then there’s always something that can happen. I learned to just be on my own and to have very high diversification in my pro and my income.
Max: So you’re in what part of Ukraine exactly? It is the Western portion?
Michel: Yeah it’s the most Southwest part. Some geologists or geographers measured the center of Europe here. So we have a tourist station which says it’s the centre of Europe. It’s around 300 kilometers East of Budapest and close to Prague. In fact, there is no real industry or big cities around. It’s a very privileged micro-climate that we have here. It’s at the beginning of the large Pannonian basin which is like a steppe area and we are at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains which is the largest connected ecosystem of Europe.
Max: So I’m curious to hear you talk a little bit more about the aspect of this that I’ve been thinking about a lot. With the coronavirus crisis having swept around the world, it kind of remains to be seen exactly how intense it’s going to get and how many people are going to be killed. There were some estimates in the beginning that now are looking like they were a little too high, right? It’s looking like the virus is less lethal than a lot of the early estimates put it.
But one repercussion of what we have seen with coronavirus is this semi-collapse in globalisation. We’ve seen plane flights grounded we’ve seen the collapse of air travel, we have seen borders closed and because of that, we’ve seen food shortages in various areas. And I think a lot of people are maybe recognising in a way that they wouldn’t have recognised a month or two ago that globalisation and having this globalised supply chain for our food systems is maybe not such a good idea.
So I know here in my area – I live in the Western United States – and here in this area for example chickens, garden stores, seeds, nurseries, all of those type of businesses have been flourishing and exploding because thousands and thousands and thousands of people are recognising all of a sudden that local food and self-sufficiency is an incredibly important thing.
I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about the relocalisation of food and it seems like you’re sort of trying to revive this pastoral way of life. So can you talk about why this is important and why you know how you contrast that to the dominant culture today?
Michel: This culture here, the Ruthenian people, have been into serious trouble over the last 150 years. Different empires were always coming here, like the Austro-Hungarian empire and then Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic and several Hungarians have been very cruel here. In the Soviet Union, mass people were killed because they were just farming.
When I talk to the people and say “we have a crisis,” they just start laughing because they say they are in a permanent state of crisis. In fact, they are not really touched by any world economic crisis because they have learned over the years to be self-sufficient. What that means is that everybody has two hectares of land for himself and his family and they share common land. So, common land is probably the key issue because for any self-sufficient gardening, you need the nutrition. The traditional way is that you keep a cow, or you keep a horse and a goat or whatever like this, like large herbivores that bring the nutrition from the field to your house to the garden. And with this manure you’re able to grow the vegetables and even feed the orchards. So those two hectares people have around is one important part. Potatoes, beans, onions, carrots and beetroots are the basic foundations of their survival.
At the beginning I did not have any garden. People were quite confused because growing potatoes is such an easy thing. I wasn’t used to it because in Germany it is not normal that you have any land where you can grow potatoes. In fact it’s really small land that you need for it and those highly productive plants like sweetcorn or beans you can grow on small areas.
These people have been teaching me how to do the gardening. The funny thing is that they are combining a very old calendar with their orthodox church. It’s a calendar that is oriented on the stars and moon and so on, it tells you when you can see which plants. Sometimes you have a freezing time that is heading in and when you plant something too early it will just die or when you plant it too late you will not have any results. So, it’s a little bit tricky and you should be connected to them, and to somebody that has some experience.
But with like a small greenhouse, anybody can start and have beautiful results and the interesting thing is when you have your own vegetable it’s like a synergy effect, it’s not only fun, it’s very healthy. You have something you can share in your community. It brings some type of pride when you produce something with your hands. You’re digging with the dirt and it’s like a healing ritual. So I recommend to anybody, even if it’s not necessary just do it as a hobby. If you are like really into it, you can start to grow your own seeds which can be a very high science, especially when we look at the different flowers that you can produce with corn.
I was once renting a small house in the mountains and I had always about two or three volunteers at the same time because of WWOOFing and things like that. An old lady, who was more than 83 years at the time, was able to feed me and two volunteers every day with at least one nice completely self-made meal. It means that you can, with your own garden, achieve a very high production and it’s not so work intensive. Now in the spring, when you believe in the digging, then you have to do quite a lot. But there is a very high result from very little work. When you invest like two or three hours a day, you have a really really big garden that can feed your whole family.
I think this is the main thing for building up anything. Because out of this home ground, you can be relaxed and you can start thinking about any problem in the world in a completely new way and a new perspective. It’s your ground and the common fields are defended by your community. Nobody can go there, no investor can go and say “I will take away your common ground and plant some genetically modified crops there and spray glucosate” or whatever. The community is depending on it so they will just burn down their machines and that’s what those people here are about. That’s the reason why there is no foreign investor, no big companies.
People don’t want anybody to use their common land because they are depending on it. And this new food that you have in your cellar the whole winter gives you the opportunity to do anything. Even if you get fired from your additional job, you always know you can come home and your granny is living at home and taking care of the children or the neighbor’s children or whatever.
With this gardening, a family structure is like this. There is the inner circle: the house. In the house, there is the oven you heat with firewood. Outside the house there is the well and the garden. The children are playing around and the granny is taking care of the children. Mostly here it’s a traditional way such that the wife is closer to the house and doing some gardening. The man is in the forest. They even have a community forest here so you can go and chop your own wood. I have to be honest, it’s a really great feeling. For example, when you start to cut hay, it’s a big activity in the summer. It brings everybody together. When you are out there with around twenty men cutting the hay of the grass with very sharp sickles from very early in the morning, you are singing and drinking together and it has such a strong energy.
It fees like people here have their secret language. When you don’t have you own potatoes and you don’t have your cow at home and you don’t speak the local dialect–which is pretty weird and survived over the last few hundred years–then people say “yeah they are the strangers and the tourists or whatever or the occupants.” When you have those things, you’re one of them. It was such an incredible feeling when they started to call me one of them. It makes feel like I’m not afraid of anything anymore because I’m now part of a bigger thing, a community which you cannot easily dismantle. There were many situations where it was helping me and giving me such a deeper inner freedom. Out of this I can now go out and do my research anyway.
I’m still different because I am not drinking with the locals (no alcohol). But I read. So people come here and want to know information and so on. And so it’s like this synergy that comes up with the community. That is such a great feeling. I just can’t recommend it enough to anybody to build up such a structure. This is how it was in old Europe. And I feel at home here because my family or my roots are in this central European culture like the Celtics. They have also been living here. The people are of Slavic culture here, but they realize that the Celts have been living here. Everybody has to find his own place where he can resonate with the location. I tried to live in Bolivia but it was not possible, although I liked the political system but I feel like this European oak forest is the one that resonates with me the most.
Today, all day long, I was pestering my animals in the oak forest and it’s just wow because even the oak forest is feeding you with a lot. With mushrooms, they call it the meat of the forest. You can harvest all those non-timber forest products beside the wood and this gives you an even deeper connection. You know why you should keep this forest alive. You start to love it. Nobody can just come and buy it from you. Not even the state government is able to do illegal logging. Everybody who is picking mushrooms in the forest knows how much is allowed to take out and how much healthier it is for the forest. There is a very healthy and very strong community that takes care for the nature here.
The only problem here is the plastic garbage. People are not able to deal with plastic garbage because it’s quite new to this community. They don’t even know what it means. They don’t know what dioxin or what can oil do to the water. That’s a problem but that’s the reason why they contact me so much because I read, I’m an ecologist, and try to tell them how to handle plastic garbage
Max: It’s interesting I was just in the Philippines about a month ago doing some organising work down there and spent time in a rural agrarian community that sounds like it has some similarities to the community that you’re working in. It’s mostly people living in a small village. The houses are clustered together in small areas with some communal fields and some individually owned fields around. And then there’s also a jungle nearby that the community protects from deforestation and development. Even though at times in the past they themselves, or their ancestors, have cut trees in that area.
They’ve begun to develop stronger ecological ethics. There are a few similarities with the community that you’re talking about. First is living in this small community that’s rooted in a place where you know everyone in your village and they all know you. And the second similarity that I’m thinking about is the sense of the protection of the land and how powerful that can be when it’s shared in a community. And in the place that I was in, the Southwest part of the Northern island of Luzon, there is this village that when they would hear a chainsaw running in the forest everyone would just drop what they were doing and run to find the chainsaw. Because that often meant there was some illegal logging going on. I didn’t hear that happening while I was there. But they had developed a shared ethic that logging in this forest was unacceptable. And they’re doing restoration work and planting native trees and working to restore the forest starting with pioneer species and so to help restore their water cycle.
The third similarity actually would be the plastic garbage because similarly this community didn’t really have plastic coming into their community until relatively recently, perhaps maybe in the past, maybe a couple decades. So the idea of having a trash service or having a landfill or something like that is just a foreign concept.
We live in the United States and in Germany and the ubiquity of trash and garbage is so intense that there’s so much of it, it’s everywhere. People have figured that we got to make a giant pile of it somewhere and basically sacrifice this land to put all this poisonous substance in it. And then bulldoze over with soil and pretend that it will be fine there.
It’s pretty fascinating to be in a place where that reality just goes so unquestioned. In so many places around the world is new.
Michel: Yeah definitely. I think it’s a phenomenon that was for many thousands of years all over the world. When we look even in the amazon, we are talking now about jungle gardens there, which is something that modern people call an agroforestry system. But it’s not a virgin forest at all. For example, the Brazil knot is a plantation and underneath you can have chocolate trees. And here it’s more or less the same system with the oaks and then the orchards. You have pears and apples and plums and then around this the chickens and so on.
Additionally, this community is working on it. In fact, those orchards here and pastoral forests have the highest diversity in Europe. That means that the nature had the longest period to adapt to it. I think that’s a sign that it has been here for a very long time. All those insects and flowers had a long time to adapt to those systems. They are established here. This is also what they took away, like, in Germany. When they conquered Germany, or when the ruling class got more powerful in the 16th century, we had those uprisings of farmers that fought for the common land. Once the common land was given to the ruling class, the farmers became slaves because they had to pay to use the land and pay the tax and so on. It’s such a weird thing that you can just buy land with money.
Here in Ukraine now, they started to introduce this system too. Summer next year 2021 will be a large moratorium on the land going because of the credits the World Bank was giving them. Others like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) forced farmers to give away their land to be privatized so it means that now is the last time we have seen this common land in central Europe. This area is mostly primitive. But I would say that it’s not really advanced when you make people dependent on the money system which is not sustainable.
Max: Right. Yeah it’s fascinating and that’s sort of the pattern that we’ve seen again and again around the world with the IMF or the World Bank, or the US or China or whatever sort of foreign development oriented financial power. Now colonization has evolved from sort of the direct invasion and violence and direct occupation that we’ve seen in the past, although that of course still happens, but this sort of financial form of colonization is so powerful. The amount of damage that has been done by these capitalist ideal ideologues at places like the IMF and the World Bank is pretty stunning. And it’s continuing so I’m not surprised. It’s horrible that what you’re talking about and that’s coming to Ukraine.
And that’s what they always do right. They offer loans and they hold some sort of collateral over your head that you have to change these policies or basically move towards more of a “free market system” if you want access to these international “development loans” right.
Michel: Yeah and that’s the reason we should show the people how important the commons are. Here it’s still not too late and I’m using my popularity to talk with the people about commons. It was taken away step by step. Maybe it was by accident, but it looks like first Europe opening the border for the workers. They all went abroad and worked in the Czech republic. That means that in order to make some money they left the old lady, or the babushka as they call them, with the cow and the children. In most cases, it’s too much work just for one person to run the self-sufficient farm. So they sold the cow. That means they don’t need the common land anymore. Now, they come in and say, “You don’t need the common land, so let’s give it to privatization.” Nobody will really complain about it. So hopefully this corona virus or this coming crisis that’s intensifying the system will teach the people that it is important to use the commons to be independent of this economical fluctuation or convince them to not give up their traditions.
I have some hope that the communities are still strong enough to fight back this development that’s coming in the next years. But in other countries, we have seen how it worked and it’s good that we are talking about it now on an international level and using the English language to tell each other like how it has been like in the Philippines, or in Africa, in Ethiopia, in South America Then we can use that to teach the people here.
Do you want this to happen in your country? Look at Chile and look at those guys. Look where they are now.
Ukraine is just like five or ten years behind this development. We can show them by pointing out those examples where the IMF, like in Argentina, was privatizing everything. I know that those people don’t want to live like in Argentina. We just have to make it visible for them and show them what it means and they have the facilities. They have the strength to fight back.
One major thing here in Ukraine is that they completely exchanged the police 10 years ago or 5 years ago. We called it militia. Now it’s completely new cars, completely well equipped people. It’s not the local sheriff anymore that everybody knows.When the local sheriff does something weird, the next morning his window is broken or something. Now there are faceless weird guys from the other cities or from somewhere else. Nobody knows them. They’re called police and they are driving around on the worst road you can imagine with the highest advanced electric cars. Everybody is a little bit suspicious about this new development. Now I understand why: the IMF is asking back for not money because officially they are bankrupt here but for their resources.
And we are talking about the biggest country of Europe with incredible resources. A lot of people in Europe didn’t know that Ukraine is so rich. People have heard maybe of this black soil somewhere in central Ukraine but when you look here in the hills it’s completely covered in old growth forest. We are living directly at the Romanian border, which has been a part of European Union since 2007. There, it’s naked. They cut down everything. Just open google maps and look at the border region of Romania. Ukraine is completely covered in forest. Once Ukraine and Romania were the same region. It was called the Maramureș region here. So it’s the same culture, the same ecosystem, and so on, and in Romania. Everything was chopped down. And it started a little bit before 2007 but it’s European countries.
Max: Absolutely. And I think so many people take a sort of fatalistic attitude towards that. That everything is getting worse no matter what we do and we’re headed for doom. But it seems to me that the opposite is true in a lot of ways. I mean the seed of a future world, of a just world, of a sustainable world is contained in the present. And it seems like the destruction that goes on, the control, the colonization, the clear cutting; all of these issues–it shows how the dominant culture and ruling class has to work extremely hard to contain the natural world. To contain human beings who just want to live in good ways on their local land with their communities and their families.
And just to go back to a couple of the points you were making earlier we’re seeing some of the same trends play out here in the United States. Obviously this country has been controlled by a powerful ruling class and exploited for a long time. All the land here is stolen from indigenous people but we’re still seeing this ongoing privatization process. This ongoing process of economic colonization and exploitation, that now one of the frontiers of it is, there’s quite a lot of federally owned public land in this country and the far right and the ruling class are really pushing to privatize that land and to put it into private hands. So right now near where I live for example, there are national forests where you can go out and wander in the woods and harvest mushrooms and harvest wild edible plants and you can legally camp there for up to two weeks at a time in almost any location. And that’s not to say it’s a paradise because a lot of that land is logged periodically, there is a little bit of old growth forest remaining here and there but about 98% of the old growth forest in the US has been cut down.
But the point is that there is still this public land that is open to the people. That is held in common in some way and it’s not an as ideal of situation as sort of land that’s held in common at a village or a community or regional level but we do have that in this country. It’s under threat right now. And the other point that I just wanted to make real quick to go back, you were talking about how bio-diverse these oak forests are in your region and that’s something that we actually see in this area too.
I live in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and this area has two species of oaks the Gary oak or white oak and the California black oak. Both of those species really benefit from fire and so historically the indigenous people of this area, the Calipuya and other nations, would burn, they would set intentional fires which would keep the landscape open and in more of a woodland or Savannah type regime where you had widely spaced trees.This created a hyper abundance of acorns from the oak trees, a hyper abundance of wildlife who would come to eat the acorns, and this lush grass that would grow up in the burned meadows. And then a big abundance of some of these root crops that would naturally grow in the open meadow areas. And so when the first European colonizers arrived in this particular valley here they said it would be full of smoke the entire summer because of all the fires that would be set by the indigenous people.
And it’s interesting to note that, so many people used to think that humans are inherently destructive and no matter where we go humans are like a cancer. But the reality is that the humans in this area did impact the land pretty heavily. They changed the natural ecology around them quite intensively but they actually did it in a way that increased biodiversity and increased the resilience of the natural system. And so it’s very interesting to me that some people seem to think humans are inherently destructive when there are so many examples of people living in ways where people are provided with an abundant life and abundant food from the land and their life actually enhances the biodiversity and health of the land around them.
Michel: Yeah exactly, this is my experience too. It’s such a great example. It completely shifts my point of view on humans too. This major question: is a man a wolf or a sheep? Are they good to each other, or bad? Here in this case, every spring, we have been so angry about this burning of the grassland and of these blackberries and so on. But now when you go out where people are putting their time and their power into the land, digging with, not with heavy machines but working with their hands and with their animals, you have an absolute increase of diversity.
And when I go here with tourists, I go with them to show them the beach forest which is like a car zone of the bios ferry reservation and it’s completely boring. You just have like those 300 year old trees which are covering the sunlight from the ground and you have some dead wood and some bugs and beetles of course. But it is really, really, boring in comparison with the oak forest where you have like heavy grazing and the acorn you’re mentioning is like feeding the sheep and the shepherds are going through there and singing. You have different types of flowers all over the year because the sunlight goes to the ground It’s absolutely true that the humans are such a great thing for nature.
It comes back to this idea: when I was in University, I was told about this overkill theory. It says that after the last ice age, humans advanced in building weapons to kill those mega-heavy wars. But the latest theory by Graham Hancock is that there was an asteroid or something twelve thousand or eleven thousand six hundred years ago and this changed the civilization and the amount of mega heavy force existing. And with this major change, there came other tree species and other ways of living together.
But what it shows me, is that humans are not really so bad that they kill everything up to the last one. It seems to be that it’s not such a bad history for the last 20,000 years. It’s just the last probably 200 or 300 years where we decided to use fire weapons and the chainsaw and this oil based petroleum industry which is really seriously changing the environment. Here people say a man should be able to do everything so you need to be able to make your own clothes. You need to be able to chop your own boat in the forest, you need to be. You need to know how to milk a cow, how to make cheese, how to do gardening, and how to repair a car. And when we start to get specialized like sitting on in the office and at a computer, they lose these abilities to really do something satisfying.
For example, I can work a few hours on the computer. But then I go out and pester my animals or cut some hay, do some gardening and then meet with friends. It’s so much more fulfilling and I have no need for any distraction like when I was living in the city. I was drinking beer and I was trying to distract myself and now it is like I’m waking up with a smile and going to sleep and having good dreams. So all of this civilization, like the diseases of civilization, starts to disappear when you start to manage your own piece of land with all the community that is involved in this way.
I have met so many people in Germany that have depression. But when people from the city come here and help me for a while they start smiling. They come out and those animals have a very, very, positive effect on your soul. Because as soon as you realize this is not a stupid hybrid cow, this is a very, very, ancient animal that is voluntarily working with you together.
Even when you look at the shit, it’s not a piece of shit. You turn it around and it’s full with life. You cannot even count two seconds when the shit is falling out of the animal, flies are on it in seconds using all those nutrition. And then the birds are coming sitting on the animals and singing in the morning and waking you up like this. The whole rhythm in yourself becomes more natural and it feels good and it gives you power. i don’t have to go to the gym or need any special nutrition because from those old breeds, the milk and the cheese is so healthy.
My girlfriend and I were both vegetarians when we came here. But it’s so like of course, in the city you’re a vegetarian because you cannot eat this mass-produced stuff. But here, it’s just, it’s just you cannot be vegetarian because of course we have to kill from time to time a male animal. You have to because they are fighting heavily. You have to take it out, if not, then they kill each other. What do you do with the meat and the fur? We’re just using everything and making a soup with the vegetables that we have in the garden. And all this bouillon we call it, is the foundation for most of the food we are preparing here, like even pasta. So it means the nutrition and this lifestyle that the animals give you, feels really, really, powerful.
Max: So Michel, we like to finish off every interview with a similar question and the question is around skills. So you know we’re living in these pretty dire times right. Things seem to be getting worse around the world and we have to figure out how to turn that around. So there are a lot of people who want to contribute to movements for justice, for sustainability, but don’t know where to start or what exactly to do.
So the final question for you is given this, what skill, or what skills, do you think are most important for people who are listening to this interview, to cultivate?
Michel: Yeah there’s an interesting movement, like the tiny house movement. So when you start with your tiny house that is out dark, you can move it somewhere. You have the chance to occupy a piece of land and when nobody is working on the land it means they don’t take responsibility, you have the right to use it.
I don’t know where you are in the world but here when I don’t use my land then other people can come and use it. That’s an unwritten law. So I’m trying this, I’m doing it here and I just go where I see nobody have been cutting grass and I put there my tiny house. I put electric fences around, and keep the animals that feed me. And this is attracting other people because they are interested in what I’m doing, why I’m doing it. And with them I can communicate and it resonates with them so for this I’m a good example for those people.
And you can build up a community structure which is essential for any further action. Because in this direct democracy, in this decision making process where you include those people that are interested in working with the land, you can discuss the problems that you’re facing and how to solve them in your little community. In our case, and in cases I have seen all around the world from Portugal or here in Romania, you can teach the people with good examples because everyone needs those examples.
So you have to be the shining example, first for yourself. My teachers are those large primitive herbivores. You can learn a lot from them. Just take a horse like the Mustang in North America and try to work with him and he will teach you. And out of this knowledge, you are shining example for those people surrounding you and trying to get away from fossil fuels. Bring yourself into a situation where you have to think “how can I do this?” And it’s not that you handicap yourself. You will see you have to think much more and become creative and out of this energy you get new energy. It’s like this synergistic effect that comes. You will realize that with this creativity you can move more than most people think. You just have to start very small with your minimalist tiny house and start occupying land and living with animals.
Max: Well thank you so much for joining us today. That was a great conversation Michel.
This November 19th, join the philosopher poet of the deep ecology movement Derrick Jensen, radical eco-feminist author and strategist Lierre Kieth, and special guests Saba Malik, Robert Jensen and Dahr Jamail for a special 3-hour live streaming event, Collapse: Ecology, Climate, and Civilization starting at 3pm Pacific Time and hosted by Deep Green Resistance.
Editor’s Note: The natural world is dying and time is running out. DGR believes it is necessary to take any action possible to stop the destruction of the natural world. We believe sabotage of key infrastructures are more effective than social movements to bring the industrial civilization (and its death drive) down. In these dire times, we are glad to see increasing adoption of and advocacy for eco-sabotage. Fear that these actions will lead to further hostility from the powerful against the environmental movement are baseless. The powerful (including in UK) are already hostile to the environmental movement and the natural world. Any impact on hostility from the powerful is minimal.However, when it comes to tactics and strategy, context matters. No tactic can be judged as “effective” or “ineffective” in isolation. Goals, assumptions and political circumstances must be considered before selecting methods. As such, we think target selection is critical in evaluating an act of ecosabotage. Pipelines that transport oil are an example of strategic target selection. Windows of organizations linked to fossil fuels are not. Smashing windows or other similar small-scale acts of minor eco-sabotage may be useful for training and propaganda but it does little to challenge the power structure. Minor acts of eco-sabotage may be useful in drawing attention to the issue, by giving media attention to the issue (which is not guaranteed). DGR advocates to move beyond social-political goals and into physical material ones: challenging the power structure that enables destruction of nature through strategic dismantling of global industrial infrastructures.DGR also follows security culture. We maintain a strict firewall between underground action and aboveground organizing. That’s why, as an aboveground organization, we do not engage in any forms of underground action, nor do we know about any underground actions except through information published elsewhere. This article was originally published on opendemocracy.net
By Jack McGovan/Open Democracy UK climate activist group Pipe Busters first broke into the construction site for the Southampton to London Pipeline (SLP) in June. Using an array of carefully selected tools, from bolt cutters to a circular saw, they damaged several sections of uninstalled pipeline and a construction vehicle. This wasn’t a random act: the pipeline’s main function is to supply Heathrow with aviation fuel. “Aviation is a planet killer,” said Pipe Busters in an emailed statement. “Pipe Busters act to halt the expansion of flying that the SLP would make possible.” https://twitter.com/StopTheSLP/status/1539609635002400771 In a year in which heat records were smashed across the globe, a new wave of climate activists seems to have simultaneously begun its own campaign of breaking things. During the summer, Just Stop Oil activists destroyed several petrol pumps on the M25, while This Is Not a Drill smeared black paint on buildings and smashed the windows of organisations linked to fossil fuels. The disruption has continued into the autumn. Last week, Just Stop Oil threw black paint on Altcourse prison in Liverpool, in protest at one of their number being held in custody. On Monday, This Is Not a Drill’s website reported that campaigners had broken the front windows of the Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre at Cambridge University, to draw attention to the recent disastrous flooding in Pakistan. Outside the UK, the French arm of Extinction Rebellion made the news for filling golf course holes with cement. Another group, the Tyre Extinguishers, have started a crusade against SUVs in urban environments across a number of countries by deflating their tyres. Not that long ago, climate activism made the headlines for school children skipping class to protest, so these more radical tactics seem to mark a turning point.
“I’ve tried all the conventional main means of creating change – I’ve had meetings with my MP, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve participated in public consultations, I’ve organised and taken part in marches,” says Indigo Rumbelow, a Just Stop Oil activist. “The conventional ways of making change are done.” Marion Walker, spokesperson for the Tyre Extinguishers, added: “We want to live in towns and cities with clean air and safe streets. Politely asking and protesting for these things has failed. “The only thing we can do is make it impossible or extremely inconvenient to own [an SUV].” The need for urgent action on the climate is not in doubt. These campaigners are frustrated by what they see as a lack of meaningful steps taken by governments to stem the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. Despite the need to move away from fossil fuels, for instance, the UK government recently opened up a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas. Andreas Malm, associate professor in human ecology at Lund University in Sweden, made the case for sabotage as a legitimate form of climate activism in his provocative 2021 book ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ – and he seems to have inspired others to follow his lead. Deflating SUV tyres, for example, is something Malm writes about and says he has done in the past. But is breaking stuff – temporarily or otherwise – really an effective form of action for a movement trying to communicate on such a serious issue? “Coordinated, sustained social movements that do destroy property tend to be pretty effective over the long term,” says Benjamin Sovacool, professor in energy policy at Sussex University. Sovacool highlights three global movements – the abolition of slavery, the prohibition of alcohol and the civil rights movement – that used violence, including destroying property, to achieve their goals. “Some work in sociology even suggests that violent social movements are actually more effective than non-violent ones,” he adds. In his own paper, Sovacool cites research from the late 20th century that looked into US social movements, and found that American activists in the 1980s who were willing to use violence were able to reach their objectives more quickly than those who weren’t. He goes on to describe a number of actions that could fall under the umbrella of violence, from destroying property through to assassinations and bombings. Others refer to property destruction as “unarmed violence”, and research suggests movements that adopt this specific style of violent tactic are more successful than others. Movements highlighted as having used unarmed violence include the Chuquisaca Revolution in 1809, and the overthrowing of the military dictatorship in Argentina in 1983. But there isn’t a consensus. Other research looking at similar kinds of movements comes to a different conclusion, indicating that violent tactics are less successful in specific cases, such as those seeking regime change. For any kind of action to have an impact, though, it has to be noticed. German climate movement Letzte Generation, part of the international A22 network that includes Just Stop Oil, sabotaged a number of fuel pipelines across Germany this spring – more than 30 times in total, the group claims. “We asked ourselves, what can we do to really put pressure on the government to give us a reaction towards our demands?” says Lars Werner, who was involved in the action. “We did it publicly – it wasn’t an action that we wanted to hide from.” But despite their enormous logistical efforts, the media coverage was underwhelming. The corporations targeted didn’t react publicly, either. “The government could ignore what we were doing because there wasn’t much attention,” says Werner. Following the action, the group reverted to its old tactics of blocking roads.
Accountability or anonymity?
Indigo Rumbelow is keen to highlight the importance of accountability – showing names and faces – to Just Stop Oil’s activism. Other groups, such as the Tyre Extinguishers, prefer to remain anonymous. “We’re trying to change the narrative around fossil fuels,” says Rumbelow. “We’re not trying to materially stop fossil fuels – we don’t have enough people, resources or power for that. “But by having our face attached to the action and being able to explain, ‘I did this and I believe that I am right because it’s the only right thing to do’ – that’s how we’re going to change the political story,” she says. Choosing to remain anonymous, and not being accountable for your actions, can also be risky. “If you put a mask on, there’s the danger of labelling those people in masks as terrorists,” says Laurence Delina, assistant professor in environment and sustainability at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He adds that this can be taken advantage of by others, such as fossil fuel interests, to demonise activists and undermine their message.
Those on the frontlines of resource extraction, however, don’t have the privilege of being able to decide whether they want to be accountable or not. Many Indigenous communities – such as the Wet’suwet’en, Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Mapuche and Sioux peoples across the American continent – have used their bodies to obstruct pipelines, as well as logging and mining vehicles, that would otherwise destroy their lands. Some have resorted to arson to protect their way of life. Not only do these communities have fewer options; retaliation is usually more severe too, sometimes deadly. A Guardian investigation revealed in 2019 that Canadian police had discussed using lethal force against Wet’suwet’en activists blocking the construction of a gas pipeline. Last year, Global Witness reported that 277 land and environmental activists were murdered in 2020 for defending their land and the planet. Most of these incidents occurred in the Global South. Despite differences in opinion, there is a consensus among Malm, Walker and Rumbelow that sabotage, if used, would be most successful as part of a broader movement – that it is one tool in a wider arsenal, not the answer in itself. Delina thinks that sabotage is a legitimate tactic, but only in situations where all other avenues of action have been explored, emphasising that he thinks non-violent actions are preferable. Sovacool doesn’t advocate for sabotage, but agrees that a multiplicity of tactics is useful, and that it’s important for us to be able to talk about how successful sabotage has been in the past. “I think each person has to decide on their own threshold for action,” he says.
Featured image: Sabotage of a train in Copenhagen on March 27, 1945 by National Museum of Denmark via Picryl
Editor’s note: After months of aboveground organizing against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek conducted a campaign of underground sabotage to stop the pipeline in 2017. When their action received no media attention, they decided to go public to promote the seriousness of the cause. In a public statement, they claimed responsibility for their actions and consequently became subject to lawsuits, including criminal liability and terrorism charges. Jessica was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2021 and Ruby was recently sentenced to six years in prison. We understand and respect the risks that Jessica and Ruby took to protect what they love.
We find it disturbing that Ruby Montoya collaborated with the law enforcement agencies to put the blame against her co-defendant and other people for a lighter sentence on her part. This type of behavior harms the entire movement. Therefore before engaging in any form of environmental action, aboveground or underground, it is necessary to study security culture. Understand the risks associated with one’s actions and make a conscious decision of whether to engage in the action or not.
In order to follow the rules of security culture, as an aboveground organization, DGR does not engage in or have knowledge of any form of underground action. This increases the security and effectiveness of our movement as a whole. Though we do believe in using any means necessary to stop the ongoing ecocide. We also believe in a coordination between aboveground organizing and underground action. The Deep Green Resistance News Service exists to publicize and normalize the use of militant and underground tactics in the fight for justice and sustainability of the natural world.
By Ryan Fatica, Contributor September 26, 2022 / Unicorn Riot
Des Moines, IA – Ruby Montoya, admitted Dakota Access Pipeline ecosaboteur, stepped out of a car Wednesday morning in front of the federal courthouse in Des Moines, Iowa, and walked quietly into the building. Her dark hair was pulled back into a low bun and her long, teal skirt blew in the wind. Her attorney, Maria Borbón, walked behind her.
The atmosphere outside the courthouse that morning was mundane, lacking the usual fanfare of a high-profile political sentencing. No family, friends, or supporters were present for the two-day hearing, which brought to close a legal battle spanning almost exactly three years to the day. Montoya was ordered to spend the next 72 months of her life in federal prison—a sentence imposed for her fierce participation in the protest movement against the pipeline project, which at its height attracted tens of thousands to the icy plains of rural North Dakota.
Montoya was also ordered to pay over $3 million in restitution to Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel transport corporation primarily responsible for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, known as DAPL. She was ordered to pay the restitution jointly with her co-defendant Jessica Reznicek.
From her elevated platform, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Ebinger looked down on Montoya as she read aloud her sentence Thursday, stating in part that a long prison sentence was necessary to deter others from taking similar action. When the hearing was over, the judge nodded to the U.S. Marshals waiting in the back of the courtroom; they then approached Montoya and handcuffed her before leading her away.
It was a lonely end to Montoya’s yearslong journey from Mississippi Stand, the Iowa anti-pipeline encampment where she and Reznicek first met, to the most elaborate and successful campaign of sabotage to arise out of the No DAPL movement.
Between November 2016 and May 2017, Montoya and Reznicek attacked DAPL infrastructure in at least 10 locations, setting fire to construction equipment and using oxy-acetylene torches to cut holes in the pipeline’s steel walls. Prosecutors also alleged in court filings that two earlier acts of sabotage, for which the pair were not charged, matched the profile of their later actions.
According to the pipeline company, the attacks resulted not only in the $3,198,512.70 in damages Montoya and Reznicek were ordered to jointly pay in restitution, but cost ETP an additional $20 million in added security expenses as well.
In a dramatic press conference in July 2017, the two admitted to their direct action campaign before turning around and prying the letters off the sign in front of the Iowa Utilities Board Office of Consumer Advocacy, expressing no remorse for their actions. “If we have any regrets, it is that we did not act enough,”they wrote in a public statement at the time.
In June 2021, Reznicek was sentenced to eight years in prison, a term that included a domestic terrorism enhancement. Reznicek later appealed the enhancement, but it was upheld on June 6, 2022 by judges Ralph R. Erickson, David R. Stras, and Jonathan Kobes, on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (All three judges were appointed by former president Donald Trump.)
The course of Montoya’s three-year grind through the federal court system took many turns. She went through four attorneys and went from cooperating with her co-defendant to cooperating with law enforcement. During this legal process, she and Reznicek were labeled terrorists by the government, an highly political accusation that dramatically increased their possible prison sentences and created increased repression on environmental movements across the country.
A “Harmless” Terrorism Enhancement
In October 2017, less than three months after Montoya and Reznicek’s public confession, a group of 84 members of Congress wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the Department of Justice to consider whether 18 U.S.C. 2331(5), the federal criminal code governing domestic terrorism charges, applied to acts of sabotage committed against the DAPL project.
The application of terrorism enhancements at sentencing can add a decade or more to a defendant’s sentence, and the decision to apply them is highly politically charged. According to the federal statute, crimes can be considered “domestic terrorism” if they “involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State” and are “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
There is a longstanding precedent for terrorism enhancements being used against animal rights and environmental activists. According to a 2019 study by The Intercept, of the 70 federal prosecutions of animal and environmental activists they identified, the government sought terrorism enhancements in 20. Those cases include 12 of the defendants in Operation Backfire, the major FBI operation that targeted the Earth Liberation Front, also known as ELF.
However, it’s also notable when terrorism enhancements are not applied. As many have pointed out, participants in the January 6th Insurrection have not received terrorism enhancements, despite participating in a political attack on the heart of the U.S. government, an event which led to several deaths. Neither Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine African Americans in 2015, nor James Fields, the neo-Nazi who intentionally drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others, received terrorism enhancements.
In Montoya’s case, Judge Ebinger calculated that according to federal sentencing guidelines Montoya’s sentence would have been 46-57 months without a terrorism enhancement. The terrorism enhancement elevated her sentencing range to 292-365 months—a possible sentence of 24 to 30 years in prison.
In November 2021, Reznicek appealed her case, arguing that the lower court had erred in applying the terrorism enhancement for several reasons. Reznicek’s actions, her attorneys argued, did not constitute terrorism in part because they did not primarily target government conduct. The pair’s public statements “decried perceived failures of the government but did not make express or implied threats and did not articulate any hoped-for effect of the offense on government conduct,” Reznicek’s attorneys wrote in the appeal. “The only purpose articulated in the statement was to ‘[get] this pipeline stopped,’” they continued.
The court of appeals upheld Reznicek’s conviction and the application of the terrorism enhancement, claiming that it was “harmless” because Judge Ebinger would have sentenced Reznicek to 96 months in prison regardless of the enhancement.
During Montoya’s sentencing hearing, the prosecutor seemed to anticipate the same arguments raised in Rezniceck’s appeal, arguing that Montoya’s actions were clearly intended as retaliation for the government’s approval of the DAPL project and to influence its decisions about the project’s future.
Maria Borbón, Montoya’s attorney, seemed ill-suited to the task of countering these arguments as well as many other arguments made by the prosecution during the two-day hearing. Her courtroom conduct frequently appeared to frustrate the judge, who repeatedly lectured her on procedural norms of federal court. When asked to speak, her comments were often off topic and occasionally incoherent.
Federal judges have discretion to deviate from sentencing calculations, and in Montoya’s case, Judge Ebinger explained that she decided to depart downward from the possible 24 years allowable under the guideline calculation. Her consideration included Montoya’s mental health and extensive history of childhood trauma, her good behavior on pretrial release, and her efforts to assist the government through four “proffer” interviews in 2021 (the contents of which remain sealed).
Violent Extremism Research Center Director Claims Iowa Catholic Workers Further “Terrorist Ideology”
At sentencing, the defense called Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), who claimed that Montoya had been manipulated by what she called the “terrorist ideology” of the Des Moines Catholic Worker and the environmental direct action movements she’d been a part of.
The Catholic Worker movement was founded in 1933 by anarchist journalist Dorothy Day and French-born Catholic social activist Peter Maurin. The movement, which is ongoing, focuses on redistributing wealth and resources through food pantries and shared housing, and uniting workers and intellectuals through educational discussions and joint activities.
While Speckhard testified in Montoya’s defense, claiming she had little to no responsibility for the actions she took while in a “dissociated state,” her testimony also insinuated that the actions taken by Montoya and Reznicek amounted to terrorism. She referred to the Des Moines Catholic Worker as “cult-like” and claimed that Montoya had been “recruited” and “elevated” by Reznicek who preyed upon her weakness.
According to its website, ICSVE was founded in 2015 and works closely with both domestic government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security as well as military organizations like NATO.
ICSVE is one of several organizations and governmental bodies that promote an approach to domestic terrorism called “Countering Violent Extremism”(CVE). According to the nonpartisan think tank Brennan Center for Justice, CVE are a “destructive counterterrorism program” that is “bad policy.” The think tank also explains that CVE are “based on junk science, have proven to be ineffective, discriminatory, and divisive.”
Since August 2021, activists and legal professionals have raised concerns that Montoya may have begun cooperating with law enforcement in an attempt to reduce her prison sentence by putting other activists at risk of prison instead.
In her August 2021 motion to withdraw her previous guilty plea, Montoya publicly cast blame on a slew of people and claimed she lacked the mens rea—the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing—to understand what she was doing. Montoya argued that her abusive father, her “coercive” co-defendant Reznicek, the Des Moines Catholic Worker, and possible undercover “government operative[s]” were each in part responsible for her actions.
In the months that followed, Montoya’s new attorney Daphne Silverman filed a series of sealed documents with the court, the contents of which are still unknown to the public. Filing sealed documents is a practice usually avoided by participants in political movements as it can raise suspicion within activist communities that a defendant may be attempting to cast blame elsewhere by informing on other activists.
Montoya and her attorneys have also continued to pursue the argument that some sort of government or private security operatives “influenced me” and “appear to be unlawfully pressuring me to engage in illegal acts,” as Montoya put it in a November 2021 affidavit to the court. The affidavit goes on to discuss three unnamed people Montoya says influenced her to use fire to damage construction equipment and even taught her how to weld.
According to Montoya, she and Reznicek traveled to Denver where the unnamed people taught them to use an oxy-acetylene torch and encouraged them to do so. “Inside Person 2’s house,” in Denver, Montoya wrote, “there were army training manuals of how to destroy infrastructure, and little else. They slept on sheepskin.”
In Montoya and Reznicek’s previous public statements, the pair claimed that they acted in secret without the knowledge or involvement of other activists. “It’s insulting on some level,” Reznicek said in a 2017 joint interview with Montoya, “but it needs to be cleared up. Ruby and I acted solely alone. Nobody else was involved in any of these actions. I think it’s hard for people to believe ― ‘How could these two women pull this off so easily?’”
Montoya’s testimony is the only evidence on record suggesting that the individuals she claims taught her to weld actually exist. If, indeed, they do exist, it is unclear whether they are actually government operatives or activists who believe in using direct action against the fossil fuel industry.
At sentencing, the federal prosecutor spoke of these assertions as though they were ridiculous, calling them “conspiracy theories” and even sought to increase Montoya’s prison sentence as a result of her implicating the government in her actions.
The historical record reveals that government operatives and informants, especially those employed by the FBI, pressuring activists into property destruction and even providing them the means to do so may be a conspiracy, but is much more than a theory. The fairly recent cases of Eric McDavid, in which a government informant concocted and lured him into a bomb plot and the Cleveland 4, in which a paid FBI informant sold fake C4 explosives to a group of young Occupy activists while also providing them drugs and resources, clearly document this reality. The history of FBI surveillance and entrapment of Muslim communities is even more extensive.
At sentencing, Montoya’s fourth attorney, Maria Borbón, argued that the courtroom should be closed during sentencing, referring to the “sensitive nature” of some of the topics discussed. The judge denied her request, saying that the public record in this case had already been “oversealed” in a manner that is “contrary to the public interest.”
On the morning of the first day of sentencing, federal prosecutors filed an unsealed document containing a list of more than 80 exhibits they intended to use at the hearing that day. Most of the items on the list are public statements made by Montoya about her actions as well as assessments and images of the damage her and Reznicek caused to fossil fuel infrastructure. At the end of the list, as seen below, are five exhibits titled Transcript of Proffer Interview and Grand Jury Testimony dated from November 2020 to July 2021.
Although transcripts of these interviews remain sealed, their contents were briefly mentioned by the attorneys throughout the proceedings, including a claim by Montoya that at one point she threw away $5,000 in cash in an effort to stop Reznicek from continuing the sabotage campaign. This claim was part of a relentless attempt by Montoya and her attorneys to deflect blame for her actions onto her co-defendant and the Des Moines Catholic Worker House, especially its founder and de facto leader, former priest Frank Cordero.
“At no time did Ms. Montoya lead,” said Borbón. She claimed instead that Montoya’s actions were “directed by the household,” referring to the Des Moines Catholic Worker House. “She remained in the vehicle,” Borbón explained when arguing Montoya’s alleged lack of participation.
“She was not the one who struck the matches, she was not the one who put together the funds to continue the vandalism.”
Maria Borbón, Montoya’s attorney
However, according to the federal prosecutor, Montoya said in her proffer interview that she was the one who lit the match during their election night attack on construction equipment in Buena Vista County, Iowa. The prosecutor also said that in those interviews, Montoya says that she, not Reznicek, was the author of the pair’s 2017 public statement claiming responsibility for the attacks.
The government’s exhibit list also contains a listing for a document titled Grand Jury Testimony of 1-21-21- Under seal. It was not previously known to the public that Montoya had testified before a federal grand jury, and the reason it was convened remains shrouded in mystery.
“Misguided, wrong and lawless”
In her closing statements, Judge Ebinger identified “three versions” of the events of 2016 and 2017, each as told by Montoya at different points in time. The first is the story she told during her public confession and in the pair’s public talk at the Iowa City Public Library in August 2017. In this version, the judge said, Montoya appeared as “an educated woman who speaks articulately” and “passionately” about the value of property destruction in furthering the aims of the environmental movement.
“I have a choice,” said Judge Ebinger as she quoted Montoya’s description of why she joined the No DAPL protests, “I knew I had to go there. And so I hit the road.”
The second version is the story told by Montoya in the proffer interviews with the government, in which she knew the facts of each attack and could recite them in great detail to the willing ears of law enforcement. In this version, Montoya said that she had limited contact with Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordero, hearing his thoughts mostly from Reznicek.
The third version is the story told by Montoya to her mental health providers, which they relayed in court during the sentencing. In this version, Montoya is a deeply traumatized and mentally ill person who was “coached” and “manipulated” into taking action by Cordero and Reznicek. According to Montoya’s care providers, she suffers from such severe post-traumatic stress disorder that she committed her crimes “in a fog” and in a “dreamlike” and “childlike state” of dissociation that she hardly remembers them.
The Montoya represented in the third version of her story is deeply sorry for her actions and it was this Montoya who addressed the court during allocution, the defendant’s formal statement prior to sentencing.
“I am here to take responsibility for my actions,” Montoya told the court, “which were misguided, wrong and lawless.” Nonetheless, she said through tears, she was on a “journey of self-accountability” which included her attempts to “rectify” her actions through her “statements to the government and my grand jury testimony.”
Despite her pleas, it was primarily toward the Montoya represented in version number one that Judge Ebinger directed her sentence, saying that Montoya’s statements during “the conspiracy period” were entirely “inconsistent with someone who is in a fog or a dreamlike state.” The judge quoted repeatedly from Montoya’s public statements, arguing that she was cogent, articulate and proud of her actions.
Nonetheless, the judge said, “the court recognizes and credits the adverse childhood experiences” testified to by Montoya, her mental health providers, and several family members. “PTSD frequently rears its head in this courtroom,” Judge Ebinger said.
Editor’s note: Today’s post is an interview with Will Falk discussing his work on the Protect Thacker Pass campaign with Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Lakota), host of First Voices Radio. Falk co-founded Protect Thacker Pass with Max Wilbert and is representing the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in a Federal court case alleging violations of tribal consultation laws.
Tiokasin’s guest is Will Falk, who gives an update on Thacker Pass in northern Nevada. In January 2021, Will and Max Wilbert launched an occupation of a proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass. Will is a writer, lawyer, and environmental activist. He believes the ongoing destruction of the natural world is the most pressing issue confronting us today.
Activism has taken Will to the Unist’ot’en Camp — an Indigenous cultural center and pipeline blockade on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in so-called British Columbia, Canada, to a construction blockade on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, and to endangered pinyon-juniper forests in the Great Basin.
Production Credits: Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Lakota), Host and Executive Producer; Liz Hill (Red Lake Ojibwe), Producer; Malcolm Burn, Studio Engineer, Radio Kingston, WKNY 1490 AM and 107.9 FM, Kingston, NY; Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Audio Editor
1. Song Title: Tahi Roots Mix (First Voices Radio Theme Song); Artist: Moana and the Moa Hunters; Album: Tahi (1993); Label: Southside Records (Australia and New Zealand) (00:00:22)
2. Song Title: Mother Earth; Artist: Karliene; Single: Mother Earth (2019); Label: N/A (Available on YouTube) (00:24:40)
3. Song Title: Single Pride of Man; Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service; Album: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968); Label: Capitol Records (00:28:45)
4. Song Title: Revolution; Artist: SOJA; Album: Peace in Time of War (2002); Label: DMV Records (00:32:34)
5. Song Title: Bo Bo’s Groove; Artist: Tom Principato Band; Album: Raising the Roof (2008); Label: Powerhouse Records (00:37:30)
6. Song Title: Mother Earth; Artist: SOJA; Album: Peace in Time of War (2002); Label: DMV Records (00:37:30)
7. Song Title: Through the Eyes of Love; Artist: Walter Trout and the Radicals; Album: Notodden Blues Festival – The Best of People and Blues – Nbf, Vol. 3 (2004); Label: Bluestown Records (00:46:45)
8. Song Title: American Dream; Artist: J.S. Ondara; Album: Tales of America (The Second Coming) (2019); Label: Verve Forecast / Universal Music Canada (00:55:00)
AKANTU INSTITUTE: Visit Akantu Institute, an institute that Tiokasin founded with a mission of contextualizing original wisdom for troubled times. Go to https://akantuinstitute.org/ to find out more and consider joining his Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/Ghosthorse.