Have you heard about The Earth Liberation Front? They are a international environmental action group that use (in its own words) "economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare to stop the exploitation and destruction of the environment" through non-violent means. Originally founded in the UK in 1992, ELF opposes activities charged with exploiting the environment like genetically modified farming, urban sprawl, McMansions, SUVs, energy production and deforestation. To carry out their opposition ELF groups will often burn or destroy companies and housing developments that contribute to natural degradation. Some attacks have included the arson of a $50 million dollar housing development in San Diego in protest of urban sprawl and the torching of a Hummer dealership costing the owner $450,000 in damages.
The group claims they are non-violent by saying that no living thing has ever been hurt in one of their attacks. Regardless in 2005 the FBI said ELF was "the greatest domestic terrorist threat" pointing to the tens of millions of dollars in damages. I will not get into the particular politics and categorization of such an organization other than to say it would make for a great documentary.
Which is exactly what filmmakers Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman have done. I haven't seen it yet but if this trailer (see below) is any indication of the finished product then I'm excited. It reminds me of another activist documentary about the controversial radical group The Weather Underground of the 1960's. If A Tree Falls follows the story of Daniel McGowan who was involved with one of the more active groups in Oregon that argued amongst itself about whether or not to cross the line into physical violence and go after captains of industry.
So before I get on an FBI watch list for this post I will get to the music...
The trailer uses Cherry Tree by The National from the fantastic Cherry Tree EP. Besides Fake Empire I have not listened to too much of their catalog although I have heard great things about their live shows. Has anyone seen them? They have a knack for covering real world problems with poetic flair and an anthemic tone. For example, I can't think of better lyrics for a environmental action documentary:
Dont look at me
I'm only breathing
Dont look at me I'm indiscreet
Can we show
A little discipline
These lyrics confront the uncomfortable truth that it is easy to ignore environmental degradation when it does not interrupt our immediate lifestyles. The vicious thing about environmental destruction is that it slowly but steadily increases until oftentimes it is too late to reverse the pervasive forces of Mother Earth. Aggressive timber logging could lead to more dangerous flooding for years to come. Risky hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas may yield terrific economic benefits in the short term but seriously pollute the water systems of thousands of towns in the long run.
Can we show a little discipline?
(p.s. For more information on fracking and it's implications for our water visit EPA.gov.)