To the editors:
Thank you for publishing Peter Friederici's sympathetic story on Earth First! (Calendar, September 11). One point needs to be clarified.
Friederici writes: "Earth First! gained a radical image in May, when a California sawmill employee was severely injured by a spike that had been driven into the tree he was sawing. (Earth First! members regularly 'spike' trees in order to make them worthless as lumber.)" This is true as far as it goes, but Friederici fails to mention that EF! members notify logging companies when they spike trees. The spiker in this case didn't notify anyone.
Earth First! is a nonviolent movement. Some people call us terrorists--"Terrorists for Nature Proclaim Earth First!," says a headline in the August 2 Chicago Tribune--but they're mistaken. EF! supports, and some of its members practice, sabotage against destructive machines; but we respect life, including human life, too much to want to hurt anyone. We consider violence bad politics and even worse ethics.
Even if we considered sawmill workers fair game, we would still notify the logging companies when we put spikes in trees. EF! members don't spike trees for the sake of spiking trees, nor to punish sawmill operators or their employees; we do it to save forests, as Friederici says, by making the trees worthless as lumber. Similarly, we assume that logging companies don't destroy forests for the sake of destroying forests, but that they do it for economic gain. If they know that the trees are worthless as lumber because milling them would wreck their machinery (and if our assumption about why they cut down forests is right), they'll leave the forests alone.
Spiking trees without notifying the logging companies does nothing to prevent a forest's destruction, and it certainly does nothing to help Earth First! as an organization. I suspect that the unannounced spiking was done either by an agent provocateur or by an antisocial sadist of the type that spikes Halloween candy.