Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa. In the Niger River Delta, offshore oil platforms, drilling rigs, and processing facilities dot the landscape. As a formal colonial vassal state to the British Empire, oil extraction is headed by Shell Oil, which has extracted billions in value from the country.
Nigeria has been called “the world capital of oil pollution.” It is estimated that the Niger Delta has absorbed oil spills equivalent to an Exxon Valdez (~20 million gallons) every single year for more than half a century. The land, air, and water is highly poisoned. Acid rain from gas flaring is a major issues, killing crops, poisoning land, and destroying building. And the revenues from the extraction have accrued almost entirely to Shell and a few hand-picked colonial lackeys.
In the wake of decades of this industrial devastation of the largest wetland in Africa, nonviolent resistance movements arose, led by people such as poet and activist Ken Saro Wiwa. These movements were violently destroyed by the Nigerian state in cooperation with Shell’s private military. Saro Wiwa who was executed by the Nigerian military dictatorship in 1999 on blatantly false charges.
Following this unsuccessful resistance campaign, the people of the Niger River Delta decided to escalate. Some went underground and formed The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in 2005. Using sabotage, speedboats, and surprise attacks, MEND was at one point able to destroy 40% of the oil export capability of Nigeria, the largest oil exporter in Africa.
You may be thinking, what does this have to do with me?
Regardless of where you live in the world, there is much to learn from MEND. Here in United States, where I write this article on occupied stolen land, the environmental movement has been unable to stop even the growth of oil production. The U.S. is now the leading oil producer globally (14.46 million barrels per day). The environmental movement has failed to stop this, let alone reverse it.
New research released yesterday shows that Shell Oil and other major producers are expected to ramp up oil production by 35% in the next ten years.
Meanwhile, a few hundred poor Nigerian people, with limited training and funds, were able to stop 40% of their nation’s oil production. They did this by acting as a liberation movement and attacking the colonizing force’s ability to maintain war. In other words, they targeted infrastructure.
In 2016, we published an article calling for serious resistance in the form of “ecological special forces”—trained, small units of activists operating clandestinely to sabotage and otherwise stop industrial capitalism, civilization, and empire.
This article will expand on that piece by looking at skills and techniques that serious underground resistance actionists would require to be more effective.
Skills for Serious Resistance
Knowledge of industry operations
To be effective, ecological commandos need to study the industries they are fighting. They need to understand factors such as:
- Type of equipment necessary for a given operation
- Basics of mechanics
- How to identify critical and vulnerable components of heavy machinery and infrastructure
- Common security measures taken at industrial sites
- Work rotations and scheduling
Basic physics and engineering
To effectively dismantle and/or sabotage larger infrastructure, resisters will need to understand the applied principles of force, mass, momentum, pressure, structural integrity, and so on.
It goes without saying that the ability to use common substances to create demolitions charges is essential for effective underground resistance work. This includes how to access the necessary raw materials without exposing your identity.
Knowledge of circuits and timers is essential for clandestine resistance fighters and relatively easy to learn.
This includes digital security (such as the ability to conduct digital research anonymously), operational security, stealth, and social engineering (acting). It should also include knowledge of the forensics and research tools (both physical and digital) used by law enforcement, and a mastery of basic activist security culture.
There are scenarios in which physical fitness can make-or-break success for resistance groups. Ecological commandos take their health and fitness extremely seriously.
As a ballpark figure, a continental-scale resistance movement might need a budget between $100,000 and $1 million to gather supplies, maintain cover stories, and for basics like food, lodging, and transportation. Funding is critical for ecological commandos. Additionally, they should have secure methods for buying materials (preferably with cash).
The military maxim goes “Amateurs talk tactics, dilettantes talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.” Mastering logistics—supplies, equipment, transportation, sleeping quarters, food, maintenance, etc.—is essential.
Much of the above will depend on networks of support. These networks need to be prepared to maintain an “underground railroad” where no questions are asked. They should also know and use secure/anonymous communications channels, preferably offline.
Featured image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0