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Pre-2008 Posts

Did the Earth Liberation Front Torch the “Street of Dreams”?


Fires along a “Quinn’s Crossing,” a “Street of Dreams” community of McMansions in rural Snohomish County north of Seattle, destroyed three new homes and damaged a fourth on Monday night.  Damage is estimated at $7 million.  The homes in Quinn’s Crossing cost around $2 million each and were between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet.  Builders described them as “green” construction because of of features like formaldehyde-free materials, energy-efficient appliances, cork and used-wood floors and landscaping that included native plants.  The ELF (Earth Liberation Front), some member of whom claims responsibility for torching the homes, and neighbors disagree.  How can a 5,000-square foot home be “green”?  For starters.    Then there is the fact that this was a “Rural Cluster Development,” a kind of developing which is increasingly popular in which often huge, expensive homes are built in a “cluster.”   Developers say RCD’s are “green” because they preserve open space.  Opponents — like the neighbors who formed groups, sued the Quinn’s Creek Developers, and essentially lost — say these developments bring the worst of the city into rural areas.  Had developers not built in “clusters,” they would have been restricted by zoning regulations to building 24 homes with each home on about five acres.  “Cluster” developments allow them to build up to 48 homes on one-half acre each, in exchange for leaving 114 acres undeveloped.  Bringing this many homes into rural areas means many more people, many more septic systems which threaten streams, aquifers and wells which supply drinking water, and many more vehicles and drivers taxing and overloading country roads.  Homes like this in rural areas are nothing like other homes nearby and mean, invariably, gentrification, the end of small farm communities as the people who live in them have created them and known them for decades and generations.  Rich people who buy these McMansions usually have little to no tolerance for rural values of thrift, sustainability, simplicity, or for the fierce independence and self-reliance of farm and rural people, an independence which usually steadfastly resists programs McMansion-dwellers find attractive, most of which amount to efforts to ensure that the surrounding community is what they want to look at when they do their morning runs with their dogs or whatever.


Developers’ claims to “green” credibility are impossible to test or validate.  There are no real standards which identify a development as “green.”  Any developer can call his latest project “green” by selecting from a laundry list of “green” features” to include (and charging up to five percent more for the home than he would have been able to otherwise).  These “green” dwellings — which include such things as waterfalls inside the home (!)  and “outdoor living space” (!) — are a joke and a disaster to rural people who have lived green, often out of necessity, all of their lives.  “Green” is not paved roads, cul de sacs, waterfalls in the house, gates, electronic surveillance devices,  and all of that.  Green is gravel roads, caring for and preserving aquifers and streams, enjoying real waterfalls in the outdoors,  viewing all of your property as “outdoor living space,” and having dog friends around to alert you to the presence of strangers.  And what on earth is “green” about importing and planting “native plants” in the landscape?!  Green is enjoying the native plants growing on the property all by themselves and not bulldozing them or ripping them out to build your multi-million dollar estates, then buying and planting “native plants”!  This is no “Street of Dreams,” from the standpoint of the earth, animals, creatures, trees, wildlife, and people living in rural communities, this is a nightmare!


Spray-painted sheet left at the site reads, “Built Green?  Nope, BLACK.  McMansions + RCDs r NOT GREEN.  ELF”

Well, I’m nonviolent and always have been and always will be.  No arms, guns, knives, bombs, incendiary devices, matches or “accelerants” for me.  But I have to say, I cannot stand what I see rich people and greedy developers doing to the rural areas I and my parents and grandparents and family members have lived in, known, loved and cared for for all of my 55 years.  Torching the Street of Dreams was horrible and wrong, but I can’t say I have no insight into the sensibilities of those who torched it.

Link, link, link
Info on Earth Liberation Front
Earth Liberation Front website



48 thoughts on “Did the Earth Liberation Front Torch the “Street of Dreams”?

  1. I’d rather not live in a world where arson was considered a means of resolving disagreements.

    Hopefully, no humans or animals were injured in the fire.

    Posted by anonymous_person | March 6, 2008, 1:41 am
  2. I wonder if ELF asked the local folks who were there before the McMansions if they wanted a violent, potentially life threatening fire in their community?

    It feels like you have city folk imposing their idea of green and rural on that which is naturally green and rural. In response more city folk come in and torch it. Meanwhile the people who’ve been there all along have to put up with a battle they never invited to their community.

    I’m sure ELF would have a lot to say against many practices of rural folk too. Violent imposing of ideology disgusts me.

    Posted by Arietty | March 6, 2008, 2:05 am
  3. Anonymous, nobody was injured in the fire, creature or human. I think this was an act of terrorism, and I don’t think terrorism is ever an effort to resolve disagreements. I think it’s always an effort to terrorize, including when Bush does it, when police do it, when bigger countries do it to smaller countries, when men do it to women via rape and battering,

    I think ELF specifically sets itself against corporate, institutional exploitation, greed and abuse, as opposed to individual rural people or poor rural folks. The ELF is here in my area, or has been, and they target corporations like McDonalds, universities that do testing on animals, especially chimpanzees, factory farming/agribiz, and so on.

    There’s no evidence but that sheet that ELF did this. For all we know it could have been a disgruntled neighbor blaming it on ELF (because the neighbors were pretty incensed and especially when they sued developers and basically lost). Then again, ELF has no real organization– it is anarchist really. Anybody who wants to do any act of terrorism can do it, say they are ELF, and for all intents and purposes, they are, which is why these guys are so hard for the FBI, etc., to track down, as one FBI guy said, there is no hierarchy to penetrate.

    I blame the developers, and the county officials that approve their exploitive projects for creating this volatile situation (which does not excuse terrorism, ever, terrorism is always wrong, including when Bush does it, including when men do it to women. I also differentiate hugely between damage to property and harm to human beings and creatures, the latter is far worse). It’s one thing for one person to move into a community and build himself a McMansion. That is irritating and really obnoxious as all hell, but whatever, in the country, it is live and let live, if he’s at least somewhat nice and decent, people will warm to him (probably in about 20 years!). It’s quite another thing when developers come in and throw up 24-48 $2 million dollar houses on rural land in a rural community with one purpose in mind: to get rich. That is egregiously, in my opinion, immoral and should not be permitted.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 4:15 am
  4. Hi Heart,

    To me it’s reminiscent of the terrorism and misogyny practised by PETA. Sparklematrix has a good thread on this PETA stuff on her blog right now.

    I seem to recall that some Canadian jurisdiction(s) have listed PETA as a terrorist group.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 6, 2008, 3:29 pm
  5. I wonder if the ELF website is some kind of mocking or what, that can all not be taken serious.

    Posted by Nina | March 6, 2008, 6:26 pm
  6. The ELF is very real, and they’ve done some really horrifying things. There’s a young woman on trial in Tacoma, WA right now for having participated in the setting of some or one of 17 fires set by ELF/ALF (Animal Liberation Front) back in 2001 when she was a student at Evergreen College. Some have speculated the Street of Dreams arsons were in part a response to her being on trial. She’s 32 and faces a possible 35 year prison sentence.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 6:53 pm
  7. Ok so the houses had already been built. What purpose did setting fire to them do, apart from endangering life and destroying people’s homes. Maybe it would have made more sense to target the development before they were built? I’m sure apart from anything else the fire produced a hell of a lot of polluting chemicals and CO2

    The ‘green’ activists in the UK all seem to be from the affluent middle classes (indeed a lot of them are from the extremely wealthy upper classes). Which is why I personally am quite suspicious of them. Poor people are usually too busy getting by to bother about eating organic veg and composting. And since I personally can’t afford to fly all over the place or have a car, I think I’m already doing my bit for the environment, thanks very much.

    Posted by polly styrene | March 6, 2008, 7:02 pm
  8. Actually, the ELF are not what I would call “green” activists of the type you’re talking about (and I know what you mean, Polly Styrene). They really are more like anarchists/terrorists many times, mostly young, college students or they were college students once or they hang around college campuses. Often they’re poor, though that might be by choice, i.e., they are alienated from their families who would continue to support them but they don’t want it or their families don’t want to support them in their radicalism. They remind me a lot of the extremists I recall from the 60s, the SDS/SLA types who bombed banks and corporations and ROTC buildings and sometimes killed people. They’re the extremists so far as radicals of this generation, and I often wonder why so few people seem to know much about them.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 7:40 pm
  9. I don’t consider this terrorism.

    Posted by funnie | March 6, 2008, 7:54 pm
  10. One reason I think it’s important to talk about these young people is, they have been pretty active out here where I live, especially, and why isn’t there much press about them as terrorists? We are reading about young terrorists from other countries *all of the time*. These young people, who have really done some pretty egregious things, it’s like nobody even knows about them.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 7:56 pm
  11. funnie, is that because they only do property damage and not damage to people that you don’t think they are terrorists?

    I’ve thought a lot about that too.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 7:58 pm
  12. I read one response or comment somewhere about the ELF where the person said they were vandals, and this was vandalism, not terrorism. I sort of see that point. But “vandalism” doesn’t seem strong enough a word for this level of destruction.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 7:59 pm
  13. The property damage thing is part of it.

    Another thing is: what is terrorism?
    When is that a meaningful term?

    If it’s as simple as “scary things that make people feel insecure about their lives/choices/lifestyle,” well, there goes all demonstrations, even peaceful demonstrations. A mob of pissed off people is scary and potentially very dangerous. Is it terrorism? I don’t think so (but notably the government treats it as such).

    And another question is: who is scared? And what are they scared OF?

    If a black family in 1960s Mississippi gets a brick through the window, the people who are scared are NOT powered people. And they are scared of the violence plausibly done to them by powered people. And they are terrorized.

    But if the people who are afraid are powerful,
    If what they’re afraid of is not violence, but embarrassment,
    If there is no credible threat to their safety,
    If who they’re afraid of is oppressed people,

    The calculus comes out SO differently, in my opinion.

    And so the gray areas are –

    What if the people doing this are not threatening your safety BUT are trying to scare you anyway? (is that property destruction or terrorism)

    What if the people doing this, though oppressed, are ready to resort to violence? (is that freedom-fighting or terrorism, who decides, etc)

    I think “terrorism” has some use as a concept to describe, say, abortion-doctor killers. Men using a fully credible threat of violence to control women’s actions.

    And sure, there’s McVeigh, etc.

    On the other hand, you’ve got nuns getting arrested on an Army base in Columbus, GA, to protest the training of (what I WILL call) terrorists who return to their countries and murder people, including nuns.

    And in between, you have stuff like Weathermen, ELF, etc.

    Not a peaceful demonstration.

    Not necessarily oppressed actors protecting their own rights.

    But – people who sincerely perceive that an injustice is happening and that the only way to correct it is to act “big” enough that it makes the news (unlike FBI-overphotographed yet count-underestimated and media-underreported demonstrations); causes fear of embarrassment (if you’re buying a home in a subdivision that’s been called the place where greedy pigs live); causes fear of LOSS OF MONEY….

    It’s harder. If peaceful protest about the environment brings about not much more these homes themselves (“green” technology, whee!), and you truly perceive yourself in a battle for life, and you make sure you’re not subjecting anyone to bodily harm, I think the call is tougher.

    But mostly, I just think the word “terrorism” is way over-used and it’s mostly used so that the gov’t can destroy our civil liberties.

    If it were actually being employed to ensure that people weren’t living scared, the War On Terror would be very different.

    Plenty people in America are afraid to step out of their front door. Or not sleep on the floor, away from the reach of a stray bullet.

    Plenty more are afraid to stay behind that door, in the “private” place where they’re being abused.

    But nobody’s really abridging rights in order to monitor THAT.

    Instead, we’re “afraid” that rich people won’t feel safe in their homes.

    And, I’m not sure, given all the above (including that nobody was harmed or killed), that they have a special right to.

    They’re the safest people in the country – yet what happens to them – only via property they haven’t necessarily even purchased yet – is terror…

    Doesn’t add up.

    Posted by funnie | March 6, 2008, 8:23 pm
  14. Huh. That is GREAT, funnie. Really, really good. I think you’re right.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 8:31 pm
  15. Polly Styrene: The ‘green’ activists in the UK all seem to be from the affluent middle classes (indeed a lot of them are from the extremely wealthy upper classes). Which is why I personally am quite suspicious of them.

    See, these “green” activists are comparable with the developers here who built these “green” houses and are very wealthy and getting wealthier every day. The ELF is actually challenging *them*.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 9:04 pm
  16. Funnie,

    I think the terrorism comes in when the threat to surrounding ecosystems & low-income people through deliberately set fires is considered. It is like a hostage situation. Neighbourhoods, the environment, and poor people are being endangered by terrorists who hold them as hostages.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 6, 2008, 9:37 pm
  17. Mary Sunshine (and funnie), seems to me it’s the rich developers and landowners and homeowners who are holding ecosystems, low income people hostage, aren’t they? “Don’t mess with me, make sure I in my McMansion am safe, but if you mess with me, the ecosystem and poor people and animals are going down too.”

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2008, 9:40 pm
  18. Heart,

    Yeah, for sure, they’re holding us all hostage! Patriarchy is terrorism / hostage taking from start to finish.

    I also think that *in particular* ELF is practising terrorism against vulnerable, innocent life forms – not just threatening the rich.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 6, 2008, 10:38 pm
  19. The center for Consumer Freedom is a right wing lobbyist group for the food and restaurant industries, among others. Many of their sponsors stay unnamed. Anyone who threatens the profits of their clients’ industries gets targeted by them. This includes groups like Mothers against Drunk Drivers, anti-spoking groups, and yes, PETA.

    If you want to get a sense of how vile they are know this: the central character in the book and movie “Thank You for Smoking” was based on its founder.

    Don’t believe a word they write or say.

    Posted by Gayle | March 6, 2008, 11:33 pm
  20. I stumbled across info on this group through PETA – and then here, and I have zero patience for the actions of either group.

    The thing is, even if I’m not on the front-line against them at this stage, I could be. I work day in, day out to ensure the welfare of the animals in my care and it only takes one stupid act – call it a destruction of ‘property’ if you will – to impact on the welfare of those animals.
    The past actions of both groups suggests to me that – like anti-abortionists who couldn’t care less for the welfare of born children – these groups are not interested in the welfare of living animals.
    I am.

    In theory, we (these organisations and land owners/farmers/growers/researchers) should be working towards the same goals, not antagonising each other – and this sort of action is simply further alienating rural communities.

    Posted by Sophie | March 6, 2008, 11:38 pm
  21. Interesting post from funnie about definitions, I do think vandals is probably a better word in light of that.

    As to them only targetting property, I cannot forget that firefighters must put those fires out and there is risk involved in that. If this was my neighborhood the firefighters would all be locals and the community would be very angered that these volunteers were put at risk just so someone could make an ideological point.

    As to the McMansion developments, do enough people who live in the area care about this to change the zoning laws?

    Posted by Arietty | March 7, 2008, 2:15 am
  22. Gayle, where are you seeing a reference to the Center for Consumer Freedom? I’m kind of lost here…

    Posted by womensspace | March 7, 2008, 4:13 am
  23. Sparklematrix linked to them in comment 5.

    Posted by Aletha | March 7, 2008, 6:57 am
  24. Sure, Sophie – I’ve worked in a facility considered fully targetable by ALF, ELF, and others. I understand feeling like one’s own safety could be threatened. And I certainly understand thinking that such “actions” are either misguided, or defeat their stated purpose. For sure.

    I’m just not prepared to call fear-inducing wrong-headed political actions are terror. It can too easily be turned against me.

    Arietty’s point about firefighters and the public safety is well-taken.

    I think we all agree that arson is a really bad idea, all-around! It’s just that if, historically, threatening crimes =/= terror until the establishment is threatened, we need to consider that context, I think.

    Posted by funnie | March 7, 2008, 10:11 am
  25. from “Animal LIberation Front” wikipedia article, re: ALF and ELF’s classification as terrorist groups:

    The ALF was named as a terrorist threat by the United States Department of Homeland Security in January 2005.[79] In hearings held on May 18, 2005 before a Senate panel, officials of the FBI and ATF stated that “violent animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists now pose one of the most serious terrorism threats to the nation,” adding that “of particular concern are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).”[80][81] In the UK in 1998, Paul Wilkinson, former director of the University of St Andrews Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, said that the ALF and its splinter groups were the “most serious domestic terrorist threat within the United Kingdom,” and that the ALF is “very close” to killing someone.[82]

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized the Department of Homeland Security for concentrating on the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts rather than on white supremacists, writing that “for all the property damage they have wreaked, eco-radicals have killed no one — something that cannot be said of the white supremacists and others who people the American radical right.”[83] Senator James Jeffords said that the “ELF and ALF may threaten dozens of people each year, but an incident at a chemical, nuclear or wastewater facility would threaten tens of thousands.”[80]

    Posted by funnie | March 7, 2008, 10:27 am
  26. I’m setting myself up to be investigated or whatever in saying this, but I’m gonna say it anyway, because I’ve never burned anything down or committed vandalism in any way, so the feds can bite me. (I’m not a guy, but I still like that phrase for some reason.) That said…

    I do not get what this business of being non-violent is supposed to mean. I do not believe it valid to just lie back and take it when someone is harming you unless the choice is down to being harmed or being killed. I am deathly afraid of striking back when someone harms *me,* but I do not think that is a virtue. I believe that when it is possible, and something bad is being done, there should be consequences for that, not just everybody going, “Oh, that’s OK, be a destructive little shit. By not responding to you that makes me better than you.” That’s no consolation to the country that is invaded or the woman who is raped or the little old granny who is mugged and murdered.

    I look at it this way. Obviously Nature believes that fighting back, where possible, is the valid response. If She did not believe this, we wouldn’t have immune systems.

    Now, in respect to these McMansions, and to the actions of ELF in general, I ask this: What would you have us do when the environment is being degraded like this? What good does it do sitting around complaining about the rape committed against nature by the patriarchy if we’re not going to do anything about it? If even trying to take the legal and legislative route doesn’t work? What other options are there? Do you really think you’re going to be able to convince the builders to tear it back down, or prospective buyers to look elsewhere?

    If other options worked, wouldn’t we be taking those options by now? Why were these houses built in the first place? They are not the first volley fired at the beginning of a war, they’re the latest skirmish several decades after the war began.

    *Decades,* people. Decades. We’ve had all this time to “try something better” and nothing has worked. Nothing has worked, because these assholes are still building and still raping Nature.

    The one obvious answer if they won’t tear the houses back down is to make the houses go away by some other means. That’s what has happened here. This is the obvious way to make the houses stop causing harm. Heart seems to agree in her post that they did cause harm. I haven’t read all the comments but I would imagine several of the commenters also agreed with this idea. Well, OK then. They aren’t causing harm anymore. They’re gone.

    You think environmental degradation is bad, but you aren’t doing anything about it, you’re just talking about it. And yet your nonviolence stance is superior… to the so-called “violent” act (a curious term, as I’ll get into in a minute) which actually did something about the problem.

    And this bit of calling it violence or terrorism. Can we please stop doing the patriarchy’s work for it, please? That would be really, really cool.

    Violence: Have any of you read Starhawk? You should, if you haven’t. Her definition of violence is very simple: the imposition of power-over. So, to use her examples, a Dineh woman greeting at her door with a rifle the federal agents who are about to run her off her land is not guilty of committing violence. However, a manger who imposes a speedup on an assembly line is.

    It is not violence to defend yourself from harm. It is violence to impose force on someone even if you never fire a shot or raise a fist.

    Want to know who was guilty of violence in this news story? The people who built the McMansions. They didn’t consult with anybody nearby as to how the houses would affect quality of life. They didn’t care what their houses would do to the environment. All they cared about was throwing their weight around and making lots of money.

    I’ll put another bee in your bonnet: Gandhi–you know, the guy you all like to emulate ’cause his nonviolence freed India or something?–once said that a person who is not capable of violence is incapable of nonviolence. Put simply, being passive is not being nonviolent. Nonviolence is by definition a choice. Opting out of the choice is abrogating your personal responsibility and your personal power-from-within, and does more harm than good.

    Terrorism: I don’t think I need to get into this term, do I? Do I? One person’s terrorist is another person’s revolutionary hero. “Terrorist” is the patriarchy’s term for “person with weapon whom I did not authorize to be my soldier.” An officially sanctioned invading army is a pack of terrorists to the invaded people who did not invite them in for tea.

    I am never going to condemn deep ecology or its militant arm if it continues behaving in the way it is now. I am certainly not going to condemn what the ELF has done here. If that makes me a bad person, so be it, but I really can’t see how it would.

    Posted by Dana | March 7, 2008, 5:26 pm
  27. Oh, here’s another bee for your bonnet: The Left took this “non-violent” stance when the Religious Reich was making its ascension in the seventies and eighties. Their take on it was, “Ignore the little nutjobs and they will go away.” We see how well that worked, and now the Reich even controls public discourse via the mainstream media, so the efforts we make to speak out against them now are effectively silenced.

    This is what not fighting back gets us. We better start learning from history.

    (In using the term “nutjobs” I am not disparaging mentally ill people. What I am doing is conveying what the general attitude among the Left was about the Reich–that they must be crazy to hold the political beliefs they held. I’m not sure anymore that it’s insanity, at least not in the conventional sense, but that’s a whole ‘nother thread.)

    Posted by Dana | March 7, 2008, 5:29 pm
  28. Dana, thanks.

    You’ve given me lots to think about.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 7, 2008, 8:44 pm
  29. The ELF was very careful to not hurt any wymmyn. I’ve yet to see a single man connected to ELF brought to trial. To me, it’s clear who the terrorist is.

    Posted by Hecate | March 8, 2008, 5:36 am
  30. Hey, Dana. Loved your comments. 🙂

    I have to be somewhat circumspect about these things on my blog because everything I say here gets scrutinized and I feel I need to try very hard not to say things which someone who wants to can run with. You sort of alluded to the same sensibilities when you said maybe your own comments would get you in trouble in some way but you were going to say what you had to say anyway.

    Re nonviolence. I don’t think there is anything passive about a commitment to nonviolent resistance (in other words, I agree with you). But, I also don’t think that passivity is the opposite of violence. I don’t think that anybody who is truly committed to nonviolent activism would feel smug about it, i.e., would feel as though they are better than other activists because they took some sort of nonviolent high road, and especially not a passive high road, which is no high road at all! I don’t agree, I guess, with Gandhi that to be nonviolent you have to be capable of violence. The implication there is that the impulse to violence is something to be wrestled down and supplanted with nonviolence. I don’t think it’s true that the impulse to violence is essential or inheres in human beings, is something, in other words, that we all have and can’t not have, and that there is a need to sort of subdue our base natures and force ourselves onto a sort of nonviolent path. I’m just saying, I’m no advocate for being passive in the face of patriarchal atrocities. I also don’t think that violence solves anything or is a sort of primordial force in people that needs to be contained and expressed *as* nonviolence. I think nonviolent activism has its own energy and power and doesn’t need to be informed by longings to do violence to anybody or anything.

    There is tremendous power, I think, in simply standing against patriarchal atrocity, *without* destroying anything. Just standing in a way that is very visible. This, of course, is what the Civil Rights workers in the 60s did and it changed the world. They just stood. Of course, they got beaten, imprisoned, and everything else so it is a very risky and, for feminists, scarily self-sacrificial kind of activism. I was reading over at Rich’s Adonis Mirror, should get the link, and will. He posted a couple of posts about a woman who self-immolated, committed suicide at a store that sold pornography. I remember the many Buddhist monks who self-immolated in Cambodia and Vietnam during the war days (and who still do at times in various places, most recently in Burma). On the one hand this is a very powerful form of standing in the face of patriarchal atrocity so long as it is visible. On the other hand, women must self-sacrifice from the day we are born, that’s what being gendered female is, so there is that tension between what nonviolent activism might mean so far as saving our own lives as women compared with how powerfully it captures the public imagination in a way that might really spark change.

    I think that at various times as activists we do find ourselves in precisely the situation you describe of facing down patriarchal behemoths which are so monstrous in size, something has to be done. Just as you’ve said, the battering of the earth has been going on despite peaceful resistance for forever, and here we are with greedy, immoral assholes in everybody’s faces with their batterings and rapes of earth saying, “See, we’re GREEN! Pay us even MORE for our GREEN rapes of, and batterings of, the earth!” Cause, you know, the air quality in these houses they are making for rich people is so green that rich people will be able to breathe good air, even if nobody else can! And we all know that “green” is all about making life better for the very rich, the very greedy, the very ruthless, the very immoral! Ugh, it is so despicable and really so ruthless and malevolent. It is, to me, the face of evil, really.

    One reason I don’t have a problem with calling what the ELF/ALF has done “ecoterrorism” is, I have a little different understanding of the term, or that’s been the definition I’ve been feeling in using the term. It’s true that Bush, et al calls everything that threatens the rich, white and powerful terrorism and fights it on that basis, but how a person feels about that I think depends on where her alignments are. If someone feels that whatever threatens the rich, white and powerful is a good thing, then maybe she doesn’t care about being called a terrorist. You say terrorist like it’s a bad thing, kind of a deal. But maybe that’s just another way of saying what you said when you said one person’s terrorist is another person’s hero. This is so so true.

    The young woman on trial for her participation in torching the horticulture building at the UW some years back was found guilty Friday and faces up to 35 years in prison. She rented the car the torchers used, they said, she hid out and alerted them to police coming, etc. Or, the jurors believed she did. She said she was innocent. Two people testified against her in exchange for lighter sentences. One of them, she said, had hit on her wanting sex and she turned him down. The other was evidently a woman, who had at some point slept with her old boyfriend who was in the ELF at the time. Another of the accused ELF people killed himself when they caught him. So it looks like she’s the only one who is going to stand trial and go to jail unless her lawyers can get her off on appeal. What they did was really pretty bad as it turned out. They burned up the UW horticulture building because they mistakenly thought genetically modified poplars were being grown there. In fact, that wasn’t the case, and in burning up the place, they destroyed tons of rare and endangered species of plants and trees, among other things.

    Having said all that, she’s in the news, front page, front and center. She looks for all the world like the activists I recall from the 60s, down to the long hair and wire rimmed glasses. She’s a violin teacher these days. She also made a film about her and others’ work protecting old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest in national parks. At least to some degree — because again, I don’t know why there isn’t FAR more attention paid to what the ELF has done — media attention is being brought to bear on how far the ELF is willing to go to say STOP. WE WILL NOT SIT IDLY BY WHILE YOU CONTINUE YOUR RAPE AND BATTERING OF THE EARTH. Will this in the long run be productive? Who can tell. The guys who built the McMansions will just collect on their insurance policies and rebuild. This time they will beef up security and won’t disconnect their surveillance videos like they did last time (because realtors didn’t want to worry about setting off alarms). Maybe all that will happen is renewed dedication on the part of the ATF, FBI, and police to find and prosecute the ELF/ALF or to harass anybody they THINK might be doing this kind of activism. What really bothers me is that in the end, it is a woman, and even if she was involved, someone who wasn’t directly involved, who is probably going to jail. If so, she will not be raising her daughter. I wonder how we can value the lives of women in these things, you know? To me, a woman sacrificing her life fighting patriarchy, including by giong to prison for the rest of her life, is just wrong. Her life is so valuable and should be saved. I wonder if the result of these torchings, etc., will be to harass, arrest, hound women, given how many women are into Deep Green. And I wonder how many ELF males are as committed to the earth as women are, if that is what really motivates them, or if they might be as motivated by their various male resentments, i.e., if they can’t be building or living in the McMansions, nobody will, but they’ll put a Deep Green spin on it. We sure saw (and still see) a lot of those dynamics on the male-dominated Left, where there are men every bit as patriarchal and misogynist in various ways as the men they appear to be fighting.

    I don’t have answers, only questions. I like your comments. For one example of powerful activism on behalf of the earth and her creatures, I look to women like Wangeri Maathai. Somehow we need more and more activism of this type, I think. I don’t want to see women sacrificed or sacrificing the earth if it can be prevented. And I don’t want to see men torching the earth out of impulses that are more patriarchal than they are about loving the Mother, you know? I think like everything else, it’s complicated.

    Posted by womensspace | March 8, 2008, 5:54 pm
  31. Greenwashing. That’s all it seems like they do where I live and development is still rampant, in spite of the plummeting of mortgage values. Now the land speculators are putting in the big box stores and the dozens of strip malls to service all the new residents of this formerly rural area.

    I work in one small segment of the (legal, bureaucratic) environmental sector. I feel useless, frequently. People here seem to think that developed land is more beautiful than the wild land. I have colleagues tell me to forget about it – do my work to the best of my ability and try to remember that some of this environmental concern is “not my job.” In other words, I’m not being paid for my concern. I’m seriously thinking that I need to branch out from my own profession. I’m NOT talking about violence. I’m talking about branching out in the work I do. Do I think we can make a difference? I really don’t know. I just know I don’t want to not try. It’s going to involve more education which doesn’t seem right in some ways. It’s expensive, involves taking out more loans, and I know I could do the work I am thinking about right now – but the bureaucracy sez “no,” you need another degree. I’ll be in debt the rest of my life anyway. It’s just the way it is.

    I don’t think my way is better than any other way but we all have to seek our place on this earth and deal with how we each can do the most good. I guess I’m walking my path.

    Incidentally, I’ve had my life threatened by asshole developers. Isn’t it a threat to have a water truck play chicken with a woman’s body? How about playing chicken with her car as she sits in it taking notes that she’s supposed to record? I’ve stood up to these assholes. It’s not a pleasant experience. I’ve been sexually harassed and threatened by ignorant assholes who don’t understand and don’t accept the legal process of doing their construction. I’ve had my vehicle vandalized too. Some of these people are horrible. I’m in place on certain construction sites because of city, county, state, or federal laws, depending.

    I wonder if ELF would consider me the enemy too because I work independently – I’m a consultant, self-employed. I wonder if these folks would want to torch me too because I’m there on site. If so, I guess I’m everyone’s enemy, eh? That would suck since there are times when I feel like we’ve done a bit of good for the regional environment.

    Posted by archaeomom8 | March 9, 2008, 11:36 pm
  32. Hey, archaeomom8! Always good to read you, but horrible to hear what you’ve had to go through because of developers. 😦 People get scary when a lot of bucks are at stake.

    Somebody up there a ways asked whether people in rural areas could rezone. Sadly, this isn’t really the way it works anymore, exactly. People can talk to their county officials and tell them what they want in their communities, but zoning anymore has to do with things like comprehensive land use plans and environmental regulations and all sorts of stuff, so it isn’t as though people in a community can get together and say, “Okay, only one house per five acres,” and have that stick. All they can do is lobby for what they want, elect the officials they want, and hope for the best. Even where they get one-house-per-five-or-10-acre zoning, as with this Street of Dreams project, developers find ways around it. They talk county officials into agreeing to let them put up these cluster developments, for example, by arguing that they are leaving all of this other acreage untouched. The untouched acreage is good, but the cluster developments are bad and change the entire character and demographics of the area, not to mention how they damage the environment just in general and downgrade the whole “green” movement. “Greenwashing” is a great word and it’s the first time I’ve heard it!

    I doubt ELF types would go after you, archaeomom8. Employees of or contractors of government bureaucracies don’t really have a choice but to enforce whatever regulations are in place. If the powers that be have said this is the way it’s going to be, then you have to go with that. The ELF seems to go more after what it views as the locus of power in a situation.

    But you are in a scary situation. If you don’t approve something, the developers/contractors/owners can lose big bucks. I’m betting they take one look at you, too, and know they’re not going to be able to buy you off in any way, as happens in these deals where county employees/contractors and developers work together all the time.

    I’ve dealt with these guys myself, county employees at various agencies, because we were our own contractors in getting our home in on our first five acres. It was always so disturbing to watch developers stroll on up to the counter and get their plans and specs and blueprints rubber stamped in a nanosecond because they were in there all the time and on a first name basis with everybody behind the counter, working for the county (and probably with the land commissioners, other guys with power because of their money, playing golf with them, etc.). People like me had to wait our turn, then attempt to explain what we were trying to do without having any sort of clout because we were just jane q. citizen. It’s such a crap shoot, too. When we moved out of our old place, we had to go through all of this rigamarole because French drains were required by our septic plan, but they had never been installed and we couldn’t sell our place without getting the county to sign off. So we had to hire an engineer to come out and inspect and then tell the county the property didn’t need French drains and they should sign off so we could sell our place. (The property included wetlands, which was the reason for the French drains being included in the septic plan.) As I awaited finally inspections and sign offs from county officials, I was really scared because we also had a really nice little barn we had built on the property — the nicest building there, really! — that we never got permits for. The guy did sign off and didn’t even mention the barn, though he could have and if he had, we couldn’t have sold and would have had to go through the permit process for the barn after the fact or tear it down.

    So these county officials at times have a lot of power. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they rubber stamp a lot of projects because they are scared of some of these guys who do have money and hence power or, of course, that they rubber stamp projects because these are their buds in their various good ol’ boy networks and this is how those networks work.

    Well, I know you’re doing your part, archaeomom8! Wherever women like us are, we always do our part, but a lot of times we are invisible because we plain do not have power in these situations.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 1:50 am
  33. The problem I’ve seen, where I live which sounds similar to arach… is that those who have the land the developers want, or that needs to be rezoned so it can be used for a new development…WANT to sell it. They want their profit, from the highest bid.

    Everyone decries the result. But no-one will say no when it’s their property.

    Posted by sis | March 10, 2008, 9:11 pm
  34. The problem I’ve seen, where I live which sounds similar to arach… is that those who have the land the developers want, or that needs to be rezoned so it can be used for a new development…WANT to sell it. They want their profit, from the highest bid.

    That’s what I’m seeing too – land changes hands, often at the best profit available.
    The problem with re-zoning (and just about everything else to do with rural affairs) is the power that ‘jane q citizen’ has when she’s a rural representative up against the urban policy makers.
    That’s why we *need* our farming unions – who incidentally, are probably the enemies of these guys – ELF and ALF. It’s only by making the rural voice a collective one that there’s the least chance of over-throwing proposals by a group of people who only see ‘the country’ from behind the steering wheel of their car and have no idea what is involved in living and working there.

    I’ve known situations move from discussion, to peaceful protest, to stepping up the ‘actual harm’ and threats of going further – in my experience, the issue has always been resolved at that stage, before actual injury or damage occurs. It’s still frustrating that things get to that level at all, and even more so that because of lack of power or collective voice rural people have to live with constraints that are only beneficial from an urban point of view.

    One thing about land being developed and changing hands here, which I find hard to come to terms with, is that much of the land in this area was illegally taken from the indigenous people and developed for European-style farming. This area would have been almost inpenetrable native bush – now it’s productive farmland, but at what cost?

    Posted by Sophie | March 10, 2008, 11:58 pm
  35. This hits me hard.

    My friends and I want to build our own cluster development/organic farm. We are planning it to be low-impact, to produce food for ourselves and others sustainably. Today I was told (by an alternative-construction builder) that this dream is selfish and naive. Selfish because it uses too much land. Naive because farming is very hard work.

    I come here and read this article and the responses, and feel as if everyone is telling me that the doors of rural life are closed to us. Land should be left wild, and we should be satisfied to live in the city with everyone else.

    Does it really have to be that separate?

    Posted by cereselle | March 11, 2008, 9:36 pm
  36. I don’t see anything wrong or selfish about what you want to do, cereselle. It sounds like you intend to farm, as opposed to building $2 million dollar mansions with waterfalls inside and so on? I don’t think several homes built near each other so people can farm together are included in the term “cluster developments.”

    I live on 6.5 acres and farm myself– I sure see nothing wrong with this! The issue is not having, or farming acreage, the issue is builders building McMansions on rural land, many more than they would be allowed to build otherwise, just because they set aside some property out of the development as wilderness.

    It sounds like the builder you talked with might not have understood what you wanted to do?

    There’s nothing, after all, to keep you from buying land and farming it. Even if you buy 10, 20, 30 acres or more, generally, you will be allowed to put one house per five or 10 acres.

    I think we need many more organic farmers, selling to local markets!

    Posted by womensspace | March 11, 2008, 9:58 pm
  37. Re “naive” — if you have never farmed, it is possible you aren’t aware of what hard work it is? Especially if you’re talking about a small farm. Your developer might have encountered people with the dream of moving out to acreage and farming who didn’t realize what they were getting themselves into. Maybe that is a reason for his response.

    Posted by womensspace | March 11, 2008, 10:01 pm
  38. Hey cereselle – I think clustering is good…it keeps infrastructure minimal and maximizes green space….as long as it doesn’t increase the total number of allowable dwellings (which was the problem in this case).

    This is one particular example of (what I consider) a good use of land just outside a small city (100,000) with an increasingly imperiled “green belt” that’s largely being sold off to conventional tracts and big-box developers:

    You may be particularly interested in the bylaws (and the fact that they were able to “get” a condemned house by removing it?)

    Posted by funnie | March 11, 2008, 10:12 pm
  39. Heart, that’s so good to hear. No, we would not be building McMansions– and we’d be building our houses with our own hands, to last the rest of our lives. Many of the comments above, though, and in prior posts, have come out strongly against “those rich city people” who worry about recycling, eating organically, etc.

    The ‘green’ activists in the UK all seem to be from the affluent middle classes (indeed a lot of them are from the extremely wealthy upper classes). Which is why I personally am quite suspicious of them. Poor people are usually too busy getting by to bother about eating organic veg and composting.


    People here seem to think that developed land is more beautiful than the wild land.


    This area would have been almost inpenetrable native bush – now it’s productive farmland, but at what cost?

    We aren’t poor, but neither do we have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on already-cleared farmland. Are we selfish for wanting to realize our dream, even if it’s raw land? Are we rich people who should be suspect, since we do recycle, compost, and eat organic vegetables?

    I’m sorry to bust in here and spill out my problems. I’m just discouraged right now.

    Posted by cereselle | March 11, 2008, 10:20 pm
  40. Thanks, funnie! I think I didn’t realize that they were exceeding the allowable number of buildings. That does make a difference. And thank you for that link– I’m going to show it to my partners for inspiration. 🙂

    Heart, re naive: That may be it. I think people tend to write off those who express an interest in farming as idealists or romantics. It’s true, I don’t have experience on a farm. But I do know that I am happiest when gardening (especially watching those little shoots come out of the ground!), canning, and otherwise making useful things. Making bread is a lot harder than buying a loaf at 7-11, but it’s so much more enjoyable. I would a thousand times rather make my own quilts than buy a bedspread at a box store. And if I can grow the dye plants and dye the fabric myself, so much the better!

    In my mind, it’s “normal” life that’s hard. But since that’s all I’ve ever done, I don’t have the experience to defend myself against those who tell me I’m naive about farming.

    Posted by cereselle | March 11, 2008, 10:32 pm
  41. Yeah, cereselle, I love all of those things too, and lived that way for many years, and still do many of those things, all really, depending what day you ask me.

    These things are, I very much agree, satisfying and most enjoyable, and nourishing, when you do them because you love to and want to, and when you have the time to do them, and especially, when you have enough money. Where the difficulties come in is, most of us can’t eliminate most of “normal” life, even if we live in the theoretically simpler ways you describe. So we end up doing a sort of double duty, having to do all the normal stuff everybody does (that, I agree, is hard) and the “simpler” stuff we love and want to do as well, so that is a lot of stuff. And especially if there isn’t much money, or if there are many children.

    As for farming, farming to support yourself is really, really tough. Some people can manage it, but it’s way difficult. Having said all of that, it’s sad to throw cold water on people’s dreams! And farming as a way of life is a beautiful dream.

    Posted by womensspace | March 11, 2008, 11:22 pm
  42. cereselle: it sounds like a wonderful idea, but (heck, I didn’t need to add that ‘but’, did I?).

    If you mean to run livestock, get as much information as you can before you start. In NZ we have training programmes for farmers to learn basic feed budgeting &c, but an experienced farmer who will mentor you would be enough, and you can learn a lot from books.

    We do have a lot of ‘lifestyle’ farms out here, and there are specific problems with them that are avoidable if the right information and experience is obtained first. Firstly: don’t under-estimate the time you need to devote to farming, especially with livestock. Just to keep my farm ticking over takes me a minimum of an hour a day in the dry (winter, when not milking cows) season, and I still need to be prepared to drop all other plans to deal with a crisis or health problem if need be.
    Secondly: learn what the legislative requirements are. You may need to have animals with an official, permanent identification, fill out forms before selling or moving them, perhaps be involved in disease monitoring schemes (such as yearly testing for TB). A lot of animals on lifestyle units ‘fall through the gaps’ because their owners simply don’t know their legal requirements.
    Thirdly: Be aware of animal welfare needs. Farming can be very easy in a regular season – right now NZ is in an unusual drought and experienced farmers are falling back from Plan B to Plan C to Plan D to ensure the animals have enough to eat and aren’t suffering.
    By far the majority of farm livestock investigated for welfare reasons live on lifestyle blocks and are owned by people who lack the experience for crisis management.

    *All* of the above should be safe if you have an experienced farmer to advise you or even look in on the farm once in a while – it’s not too much to ask; our farming newspapers have been offering the suggestion for a while now that farming neighbours should be checking up on younger and less experienced farmers through this drought.

    Good luck. I think I was rather ‘naive’ when I first went farming – all I knew was that I wanted to work with animals, and I had this idea in my head of what farming would be like.
    But as it turned out that idea – romantic or not – was exactly right. I’ve loved farming for every year I’ve been on the land – about fifteen years now.

    Posted by Sophie | March 11, 2008, 11:50 pm
  43. Yeah, since pretty much everything I read about farming basically says “OMG IMPOSSIBLE to make a living,” I got that message loud and clear. 🙂 In our case, all of the families involved are childfree. None of us intends to support a family solely on the farm. We are hoping we can at least go down to one income per family.

    I totally realize I’m coming at you with my own issues, and if I’m cluttering up your blog with them, I’m very sorry.

    Posted by cereselle | March 11, 2008, 11:52 pm
  44. Selfish because it uses too much land.

    Farming organically uses more land than farming intensively, with fertilisers added at high rates, by-products bought in and the whole system pushed to its maximum efficiency.

    One style of farming is (as far as we know) indefinitely sustainable.
    The other style is not.

    It’s possible that this is where your discouraging advice is coming from, in that you’ve spoken to someone who sees the short-term benefits of intensifying, which *will* produce more food from less land, and either doesn’t understand the vision of organic production, or has no faith in it.

    Posted by Sophie | March 12, 2008, 12:00 am
  45. Heart: I think a previous comment has just gone to spam; advice re animal welfare on small farms. I might re-write later if it isn’t found 🙂

    Posted by Sophie | March 12, 2008, 12:03 am
  46. Thanks for all that goodness, Sophie!

    Your plan is sounding kind of good to me, cerreselle. I’ve talked to/read about people who farmed in this way, took turns with one or two people holding outside jobs while the others farmed. Not having kids will help, although kids can be a huge help once they’re big enough. Oh, for the days my sons would get out in the garden for me and dig me up some nice double-dug raised beds! To dig one by myself takes me half a day or more. :/

    Sophie, I agree that organic farming usually requires more land than farming with fertilizers, etc.; an exception, though, are John Jeavons’ techniques, deep, double-dug raised beds, succession planting, composting, intensive/companion planting, carbon farming, calorie farming, open pollinated seeds. Using these techniques it’s possible to grow a healthy diet for one person for an entire year on one-fourth of an acre. If you extrapolate that out to a number of acres, there’s potential, in fairly small spaces, to have successful market gardens, co-op type systems, etc.

    Great thoughts re livestock. I raise sheep and have raised chickens. It’s so true that feed can be way expensive, ditto sick animals, and that animals take a lot more time than most inexperienced farmers figure they will, especially when they are lambing, calving, etc.

    Interesting thougths re animal welfare, too. We had a case here recently of a woman in her 50s who is facing criminal charges because she had all of these emaciated horses on her land. She’d cared for horses for years, and nobody had ever complained until now. She had fallen on hard times and simply could not afford feed, and holy crap, I hear that! A couple of years ago, I paid between $8-$9 dollars for a bale of alfalfa during the winter months when pasture isn’t sufficient here. Today a single bale costs almost 19 bucks, more than double. This woman had tried to buy cut rate feed, and some of it was so bad, at least one of her horses got a perforated stomach. 😦

    In articles about this, vets and animal-caretakers talked about a phenomenon called “hoarding,” where people keep animals they can’t really take care of and are in denial about how poorly their animals are doing. So sad. At the same time, what do you do when you have a bunch of really thin or sick animals? Who do you call? I’m sure she was really scared, and now the worst has happened, she faces criminal charges and jail. This is why being mentored by experienced farmers is so important.

    None of her horses died, thank the goddess, they are all recovering. But this is an example of how things can go bad even when people have really good intentions.

    Re organic food, etc., I need to write a post about that. It’s wonderful to grow organic food, to buy local organic food, and to eat it. There is everything right about this! Where people speak critically, it’s more often because of their exposure to people who really are not concerned about the environment, who live irresponsibly, really, so far as care for the earth is concerned, but who use eating organic food to appear to be oh-so-trendy or pretentiously conscious or whatever. Really, they are co-opting green in a way that erases what it means to really be committed to the earth.

    Posted by womensspace | March 12, 2008, 4:15 am

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