Earth First!

Why Earth First!?

Are you tired of namby-pamby environmental groups? Are you tired of overpaid corporate environmentalists who suck up to bureaucrats and industry? Have you become disempowered by the reductionist approach of environmental professionals and scientists?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Earth First! is for you. Earth First! is effective. Our front-line, direct action approach to protecting wilderness gets results. We have succeeded in cases where other environmental groups had given up, and have drawn public attention to the crises facing the natural world.

Earth First! was founded in 1979 in response to a lethargic, compromising, and increasingly corporate environmental community. Earth First! takes a decidedly different tack towards environmental issues. We believe in using all the tools in the tool box, ranging from grassroots organizing and involvement in the legal process to civil disobedience and monkeywrenching.

Earth First! is different from other environmental groups. Here are some things to keep in mind about Earth First! and some suggestions for being an active and effective Earth First!er: First of all, Earth First! is not an organization, but a movement. There are no "members" of Earth First!, only Earth First!ers. It is a belief in biocentrism, that life of the Earth comes first, and a practice of putting our beliefs into action.

While there is broad diversity within Earth First! from animal rights vegans to wilderness hunting guides, from monkeywrenchers to careful followers of Gandhi, from whiskey-drinking backwoods riffraff to thoughtful philosophers, from misanthropes to humanists there is agreement on one thing, the need for action!

How to form an EF! Group

Earth First! is an international movement composed of small, bioregionally-based groups. Earth First!ers (EF!ers) take it upon ourselves to become intimately familiar with the ecology of our area and the most immediate and serious threats to it. We apply "direct pressure" to stop the bleeding, with a combination of education, litigation, and creative civil disobedience. Many EF!ers experience both the joy of the wild and the anguish of losing it so acutely that they feel isolated and alone before coming together as a group. Nothing is more empowering or more fulfilling than standing defiant in creative consort with other like-hearted people. Dare to love that much!

Earth First! has survived attacks by moderates, would-be leaders and the agents of the system, remaining the most diverse, passionate, committed, and uncompromising group of environmental activists. Our direct actions in defense of the last wild places only seem radical compared to an entire paradigm of denial and control, where the individual is convinced they are powerless, and the organizations set up to protect the wilderness continue to bargain it away.

Earth First! is a priority, not an organization. It is the name of our journal, and the slogan of our emerging tribe, but it is a tribe without chiefs. The only "leaders" are those temporarily working the hardest and taking the most risks. New ideas, strategies and crucial initiative come from individuals, and all decisions are made within affinity groups based on preferred tactics. EF! is as much an extended family as an environmental movement, developing the integrity and skills for a new/old way of living with the land. Our actions are tied to Deep Ecology, the spiritual and visceral recognition of the intrinsic, sacred value of every living thing.

To start an Earth First! group in your area, consider the following elements: Contacts: Even though it is up to every individual EF!er to come up with campaigns and strategies and carry them out, a successful group still needs a "contact" to:

  • Establish a mailing address and phone for the group so that anyone may get in touch.

  • Maintain a mailing list and a phone tree, to help instigate actions, or to make urgent announcements.

Contacts are listed in the EF! Journal. To avoid any confusion or loss of momentum should some key motivator leave, it is best to have several committed contacts, (two names, one shared PO Box).

A Mailing List & Phone Tree

These are essential for keeping everyone in touch. Begin with friends who you know share your biocentric enthusiasm. Put out sign-up sheets at all the environmental concerts, speeches, etc. that you put on, as well as asking to do the same at other related events (Native American, anti-nuke, music, etc.). Put out an information table in front of student unions and natural food stores, with stand-up graphic displays on your campaigns and a sign-up sheet. Try doing a one-time only insert in related alternative publications calling for participation.

NOTE: Make sure it is clear to everyone putting their name on this list that it is a list for potential activists, not just a mailing list for free newsletters.

This list should include space for addresses for mailings, phone numbers for quick access, and notes on their skills (enjoys making costumes, good with signs and graphics, willing to work on timber appeals, computer literate, committed to civil disobedience, etc.)


Unlike most other environmental groups which require an immense budget to do their work, Earth First campaigns are pulled off on a shoestring. The major expenses for an Earth First! group are printing, postage, and the occasional costs associated with planning and staging actions and demonstrations, and, if arrests are made, legal costs and court fines.

An EF! Bank Account

Setting up your own bank account and doing local fundraising are essential parts of being a contact. More than one person in your group should be allowed to sign checks. This allows for fair and open accounting of the scant funds going through it. As these funds are used entirely for lawful (but radical!) purposes, the resulting records are no threat to the signatories. Remember that civil disobedience is constitutionally protected free speech, and that any expenses incurred during EF! actions are lawful.


In a capitalist world, there's capital to be had. If you put your mind to it, you can pile it up by the boatload. Try these handy methods:

  • Benefit concerts, slide-shows, tabling

  • Disgusting pleas for money in various newsletters

  • Annual auctions of donated goodies and services

  • Grants from foundations for specific projects

  • School money funneled through campus clubs for EF! presentations

  • EF! work parties

  • Profits on the sale of EF! t-shirts (available from the Journal)

  • Sale of EF! Journals


These can include everything presently impacting biodiversity on this planet. Old-growth forest protection, endangered species, species reintroduction, habitat destruction, disastrous public lands grazing, damming of rivers, and the re-wilding of the East and West Coast states. To really protect a bioregion, we have to become natives, indigenous, connected through guts and soul. To really become acquainted with that which we fight for, we need to spend a lot of time intimately exploring our deserts and canyons, mapping the ancient forests, documenting the existence of endangered and threatened species, and just feeling. EF! coordinates actions nationally as well, such as the countrywide demonstrations against Burger King (which stopped its importation of Costa Rican rainforest beef), the annual "Day of Outrage" against the US Forest Service, campaigns on predator control and other issues such as the Hydro-Quebec's ongoing river destruction projects.


It's true. Meetings are the bane of civilization, the low benchmark for all environmental "organizations." But EF! does it differently. Call them parties with a focus! We gather for potlucks, ceremonial sweats, hikes-climbs-swims-floats. Yet we meet for one purpose only: the ACTIONS that follow!


EF! is open to all forms of non-violent direct action. What we share is an undiluted passion, a belief in the sacred intrinsic value of all life, and a willingness to ACT! Although known through the sensationalist media for our arrest scenarios and advocacy of ecotage, EF! activists use all of the following tactics, and more:

  • Education, informational handouts, press releases, articles in periodicals, presentations to elementary schools and universities, going to Forest Service meetings to fill them in on their own data, radio interviews.

  • Public input, letter-writing (so we don't lose one by default), petitions, testifying at hearings, etc.

  • Litigation, timber-sale appeals, requests for restraining orders, lawsuits based on the Clean Air/ Clean

  • Water/ Endangered Species Acts.

Demonstrations and Civil Disobedience

These are what got women the vote, African-Americans their civil rights, and the US military-industrial machine out of Vietnam (next, we need to get it out of North America!). The quickest and surest way to get a new EF! group going is to immediately do a fun, nervy action! Show how much you care about issues the media would never write about, and end up on the opinion-changing front cover as a result of creative, confrontational and colorful demos.

Spreading the Word

The EF! Journal is the voice for the many diverse opinions of our movement. It is the primary source for articles on the threats to wilderness and our effort to save it. This is your journal. It is no better than you make it. All groups are encouraged to submit pieces on campaigns, philosophy, biodiversity and tactics based on deep ecology and uncompromising wilderness defense. The Journal is put out by a long-term editorial staff of four and several short-termers; any earnest EF! activist can work for an issue or two as a short termer.

If you do an action, write it up; your action articles will almost certainly be printed in the Journal, so make them exciting, stress campaign background, details of the threat, reason for the choice of target, tactics, results, and ways for the reader to get involved (letters to Congress, coordinated actions in their own town, calls for activists to come join you there.) Include lots of good photos (preferably B&W), maps, and graphics.

Free Journal copies are traditionally mailed out to contacts to be sold at full cover cost as a fund-raiser for local groups. Consider consigning them for a small commission to newsstands, campus bookstores, natural food stores, etc. Individual EF!ers are expected to subscribe, since the Journal depends on subs to survive.

A regional newsletter can augment rather than replace the national Journal, and can focus in greater detail on local issues, lists of local events or demonstrations, more leeway to fit poetry in, etc. These can be statewide newsletters, bioregional (portions of more than one state), or specific to your community. They can be copied and stapled, and sent out without wasteful envelopes. Production, writing, and mailing should be done as a group, to get the maximum number of voices represented, and keep all the work from falling on just a few.

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