The Sun
December 15, 2005


Rachel's summary: The Sun is one of our favorite magazines, partly
because it contains so much good writing and partly because it offers
such thought-provoking interviews. This interview with Dave Foreman,
cofounder of Earth First!, should cause all of us to question how we've
been doing our work, and what it means to be a "conservative." You can
subscribe to The Sun here.

Earth First! Cofounder Dave Foreman on Being a True Conservative

By Jeremy Lloyd

Before meeting Dave Foreman at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I
spent three days backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness Area, a two-
hundred-thousand-acre tract granted the highest level of federal
protection. Along the way I experienced frost, sunburn, hail, rain,
dehydration, and swollen streams -- and I loved every minute of it.
Clearly, like many other Americans, I have what Foreman calls the
"wilderness gene."

It's thanks to the work of conservationists like Foreman, whom Audubon
magazine named one of the hundred Champions of Conservation of the
Twentieth Century, that places like the Pecos received protection
through the 1964 Wilderness Act. Foreman served for many years as
Southwest regional representative of the Wilderness Society, which
received widespread bipartisan support, as had the conservation
movement as a whole since itsfoundinga century before. Men, in the
1980s, President Ronald Reagan appointed as secretary of the interior
the notorious antienvironmentalist James G. Watt, who once remarked
that our responsibility to the land is to "occupy" it until Jesus
returns. After that, Republicans began to dismiss concerns about the
environment as impediments to economic growth.

As the environmental movement matured, grass-roots organizing was
replaced by more professional and career-minded staffers -- people who
hardly even visited the places they were trying to save. Foreman could
only watch helplessly as millions of acres in his native West -- areas
that were prime candidates for federal wilderness designation -- were
denied protection by the government and instead marked as fair game
for the timber industry. Wilderness lovers had run out of options. The
nonviolence of the civil-rights era was still fresh in the nation's
memory, but the more recent writings of Edward Abbey -- particularly
his novel The Monkeywrench Gang -- lent new appeal to the use of
violence in defense of nature. One of many activists who took Abbey's
message to heart, Foreman cofounded the radical environmental-
protection group Earth First!

In its original manifestation, Earth First! was by no means the
countercultural organization it eventually became. Overtly patriotic
and steeped in cowboy mythology, it announced its goal of returning
"vigor, joy, and enthusiasm to the tired, unimaginative
environmental movement." Its members wanted to dream big, to slow down
the machine of industrial society, and, as Susan Zakin puts it in her
book Coyotes and Town Dogs (an account of the group's origins), to
"ask for more than you can get." Forget a national park here, a
wildlife preserve there, so many of them isolated islands of habitat
surrounded by development. What was needed instead was conservation on
a continental scale -- not primarily for humans, but for the creatures
that had been living here since long before we arrived. Foreman and
his allies envisioned a future when wolves would once again be able to
roam unmolested from Mexico to Alaska.

In the meantime, Earth First! took up the more immediate task of
defending beloved canyons, mesas, and forests by following Abbey's
dictum that "if wilderness is outlawed, only outlaws can save
wilderness." In Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching (Abbzug
Press) and Confessions of an EcoWarrior (Three Rivers Press) Foreman
vigorously defends tree-spiking -- putting metal spikes in trees to
damage loggers' saws -- and other forms of sabotage, placing them
within the honorable American tradition of resistance exemplified by
the Boston Tea Party. Human life, Foreman said, must always be
respected in such acts; machines, not living beings, were the target.
As for Foreman, he suffered permanent knee damage after being dragged
beneath a truck whose driver was attempting to run him over at a
blockade in Oregon.

'No compromise with slaveholders!" declared nineteenth-century
abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. "No compromise in defense of
Mother Earth!" bellowed Foreman in 1980.

Foreman eventually left Earth First! after less than a decade. The
group was outgrowing its original close-knit character and changing
its focus, he says, due to the influence of Marxist and anarchist
members. To Foreman, these were not changes for the better. Another
sure sign that the game was up for him was the morning in 1989 when he
awoke in bed to find three FBI agents pointing guns in his face. (He
was arrested for conspiracy to sabotage power lines but was later
acquitted of the charges against him.)

Foreman had never intended Earth First! to be revolutionary. If
conservation lay at its heart, he felt, then its intent was ultimately
conservative. But the Right saw it differently. "You dirty communist
bastard! Why don't you go back to Russia!" screamed Les Moore, the
heavy-equipment operator who tried to run Foreman over in 1983. "But,
Les," Foreman replied, "I'm a registered Republican." In Coyotes and
Town Dogs, Zakin describes the incident as "the only documented case
of one-upmanship by an environmentalist lying on his back in the mud,
a fat rubber tire inches from his face."

After his departure from Earth First!, Foreman returned to the hard
work of wilderness preservation, founding the Wildlands Project and
editing and publishing Wild Earth magazine for twelve years, until it
folded earlier this year. According to author Michael Frome, Foreman
has read and digested more books on wilderness and the environment
than perhaps anyone else alive. He's written his fair share, too.
Among his more recent books are The Big Outside (Three Rivers Press),
coauthored with Howie Wolke; The Lobo Outback Funeral Home (Johnson
Books), a novel; and Rewilding North America: A Vision for
Conservation in the 21st Century (Island Press). He currently has two
additional books awaiting publication: The Myth(s) of the
Environmental Movement and The War against Nature.

It is remarkable the degree to which mainstream environmental groups
have caught up with the original goals of Earth First! The removal of
dams has become common policy for achieving ecological restoration of
rivers. And scientists and conservationists alike are taking seriously
the "megalinkage" model ofpreserving wildlife corridors that would
connect volcanoes in Central America to the Brooks Range in Alaska --
thus saving not just individual species but whole ecosystems.

For decades Foreman has helped inject passion, courage, and muscle
into the environmental movement when it needed it most. At fifty-nine,
he is still doing so through the newly formed Rewilding Institute. As
for his former radicalism, Foreman no longer advocates
monkeywrenching, though neither does he disavow what he did. These
days he appears to find it more productive to tap into what he sees as
an existing social consensus favoring conservation.

Lloyd: You're currently finishing a new book called The Myth(s) of the
Environmental Movement. What are some of those myths?

Foreman: The standard myth of the environmental movement is that with
the first Earth Day, in 1970, wilderness conservation broadened its
concern to include issues such as urbanization and the impact of
technology and pollution on human health. I think this is a myth
because I see conservation and environmentalism as two separate
movements. They're sister movements, certainly, and they need to work
together, but I think it's historically and operationally inaccurate
to think of them as a single movement. And trying to cram the two
movements together has led to problems. For example, some leftist,
social justice oriented environmentalists don't know the first thing
about conservation and dismiss wilderness as a bourgeois irrelevancy.
Both movements would be stronger if they were kept separate.

I hate the word environment. You can love a forest. You can love a
mountain. You can love a plant. But how can you love an abstract
concept like the environment? To talk about forests, mountains,
meadows, and rivers has much greater force. You can drill for oil in
"ANWR," but it's a lot harder to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, because the full name has more power. The environmental
movement should have called itself "the human-health movement,"
because that's basically what it cares about: the impact of pollution,
urbanization, and everything else on human health.

The other myth of environmentalism is the stereotype that accompanies
it: that environmentalists are hip, overeducated, vegetarian urbanites
who wear Birkenstocks, don't like guns, and constitute a special-
interest group within the Democratic Party. There are many people out
there who would otherwise support conservation but are turned off by
this stereotype. These are the people we need to reach, and they
include plenty of folks who hunt and fish. The Sierra Club -- 20
percent of whose members hunt or fish -- finally has a hunter-angler
outreach program to bridge this gap. And other groups of conservation-
minded hunters and anglers are forming.

The base of support for both environmentalism and conservation right
now is within the progressive movement and the Democratic Party,
because the Republican Party has been hijacked by nut cases. I mean,
even Barry Goldwater [former U.S. senator and father of the modern
conservative movement] said back in 1989 that the Republican Party had
been taken over by kooks. These people have destroyed the very idea of
conservatism, because they aren't conservative at all; they are
radicals bent on repealing the twentieth century, and they've been
very effective.

Lloyd: Few people today would guess that Republican Senator Trent Lott
supported the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. At what point did
the environment become such a partisan issue?

Foreman: There are historic ties between real conservatism and
conservation. But in 1980 Ronald Reagan declared himself a "sagebrush
rebel," appointing James Watt as secretary of the interior and Anne
Gorsuch as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Republican
Party became the corporate party, or the nationalist party, or the
Christian party, depending on which constituency you belonged to. At
the same time, conservationists and environmentalists began to drift
more and more toward the Democratic Party and quit talking to
Republican members of Congress.

I'm working right now to bridge this partisan divide and get
environmentalists and conservationists to start talking to Republican
politicians again. If we could get just a half dozen Republican
senators and a dozen or so Republican representatives to pay attention
to us, we could win some of these narrow votes on environmental
issues. I think the reason these people aren't voting our way is
because nobody talks to them.

Lloyd: What do you see as the prospects for conservation and
environmental protection during the second term of the Bush

Foreman: I think we could see some truly horrifying things happen. If
President Bush gets his way and appoints these so-called Federalists
to the Supreme Court, they're going to repeal some of the major legal
accomplishments of the last hundred years. They're going to say that
the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which allows the federal
government to regulate interstate commerce, has been overused for
conservation and environmental and social legislation. And they're
going to declare the Endangered Species Act unconstitutional.

Right now we're seeing a breakdown of the very idea of the national
forests. Bush's reversal of the Roadless Area Rule on federal lands
has transferred authority to the states. Ever since we created the
first forest preserve in 1891, these have been federal lands managed
under federal standards. We shouldn't hand them off to the state
governors. As badly as the federal lands are managed, the state lands
are generally managed worse. But the radical Right wanted to give the
national forests and parks to the states because they're more easily
controlled by industry. For all practical purposes, industrial
lobbyists are already in charge of the public lands and our
conservation laws. And we're likely to see more of this in the coming

Lloyd: Do you see a new movement rising up to oppose these

Foreman: I hope so, but I'm concerned that there is so much pressure
on conservationists, from both the Left and the Right, to compromise.
We're seeing a weakening of the movement at a time when we need it to
be tougher. Groups are being pressed to sit down and "work things out"
with their opponents. But you end up with bad compromises that way.

Lloyd: What special protection does federal wilderness designation

Foreman: The Wilderness Act, which was enacted after World War ii,
grew out of the realization among citizen conservationists that they
could not trust the forest service and the park service to manage
federal lands properly and protect wilderness values on those lands.
We needed Congress to pass a law establishing a system of national
preserves within which you cannot build roads, cut timber, or set up
resorts -- because the evidence shows that when you build roads for
logging, for example, they bring in all kinds of other development,
which has a destructive impact on wildlife and the integrity of

Lloyd: Many environmental woes can be traced back to the Industrial
Revolution of two centuries ago, but you place the real beginning ten
thousand years ago.

Foreman: In light of newer evidence, I'd place it even farther back.
We know from the fossil record that there have been five major periods
of extinction in the last 100 million years, and what paleontologists,
ecologists, and other scientists have realized over the last thirty or
forty years is that we're right in the middle of another mass
extinction -- this one caused by human beings. If we examine the
fossil record over the last forty thousand years, we can see that
extinction occurred as human beings spread out across Africa and
around the world, encountering and hunting big animals who had never
before had any experience with something like us. We caused mass
extinctions wherever we went, and plenty of people don't want to face
up to that: that the tribes who came to the Americas caused the
extinction of mammoths, mastodons, and other animals. And I
acknowledge that my ancestors in Europe did the same thing; plus they
probably caused the extinction of the Neanderthals, our closest
relatives. It's not a matter of blaming anybody, but of acknowledging
this reality, the evidence for which is pretty strong.

So first came the Stone Age, when highly skilled hunters began to
spread around the world. Then came the development of agriculture,
which had an impact on nature fundamentally different from anything
that had preceded it, because with agriculture we took ourselves out
of the existing ecosystem and began to create our own ecosystems.
That, in many ways, not only alienated us from nature but freed us
from nature and led to our domesticating nature, in the sense that it
removed us from the food chain to which all other creatures belong.
Suddenly our population took off, since the natural controls were no
longer there. Ten thousand years ago, when we first began to practice
agriculture, there were probably only 5 to 10 million human beings on
the entire planet.

More recent developments have continued to liberate us from the
confines of nature, including the use of fossil fuels,
industrialization, and modern medicine. This began five hundred years
ago, as European countries began to explore and colonize the rest of
the world, and industrialization upped the ante.

Now extinction is being caused by sheer numbers alone. There are 6
billion of us, and more of us are using heightened technology. The
recent growth of the middle class in China and India is accompanied by
expanded greenhouse-gas emissions, both from the industrialization of
those countries and from the exploding use of automobiles there.

Lloyd: To the extent that extinction is rooted in human history and
global culture, it seems a part of our historical trajectory. Is there
any reason to believe, if the Europeans hadn't colonized the globe,
that it wouldn't have happened eventually with, say, Native American

Foreman: Well, look at what the Aztecs and the Mayans did to their
ecosystems: they flayed the land just as badly as the Assyrians and
the Babylonians did. It's hard to find an example of a sustainable
human society. We always seem to outgrow our way, and over the last
fifty thousand years, it seems that what we've done is convert more
and more of the earth into living space for human beings, leaving less
and less room for other species, and that's what drives extinction.

Nobody is paying much attention to population growth anymore. In 1970,
when I first got involved with conservation, population growth was at
the top of everybody's list. Now there are twice as many people in the
world, and we pretend the problem doesn't exist. Even the Sierra Club
doesn't talk about overpopulation anymore; it's too controversial. If
we're not going to talk about the fundamental cause of ecological
damage, then I'm not sure what can be done to reduce it in the long
term. As important as it is to live more simply, I think we have to
acknowledge that no matter how simply we live, the diversity of life
just can't exist in the presence of too many human beings.

Lloyd: What has the developing field of conservation biology taught

Foreman: About thirty years ago, as field biologists all over the
world began to recognize the incredible rate of extinction, they also
began to ask what we could do about it: specifically, how could we
apply the lessons of ecological research to designing protected areas?
Our national parks and wilderness areas were initially designed to be
nice to look at -- and they were inspiring. But the question now
became: how can we protect the diversity of species within the parks?
That was the genesis of conservation biology, which was really
launched by my friend Michael Soule. For the last twenty-five years
I've been trying to explain conservation biology to conservationists,
from the Sierra Club to local grass-roots groups, to show how we can
use that research to accomplish much more of what we want to do on the

The concept of "rewilding" was also developed by Michael Soule, about
ten years ago, as research began to accumulate about the important
contribution of large carnivores to the health of entire ecosystems.
The research shows that when you remove large carnivores, you get all
kinds of negative repercussions down through the food chain. For
example, right now in the Appalachian Mountains we're seeing the
disappearance of ginseng. One reason is that deer are overbrowsing it.
Why? Because we've killed off the deer's natural predators, the
cougars and the wolves, allowing the deer population to explode.

We also have the wonderful ecological experiment of Yellowstone
National Park, where the park service exterminated all the wolves and
mountain lions by 1930. After they were gone, willows disappeared from
all the streams in Yellowstone because the elk were browsing the young
willows away. Similarly, for seventy years, no aspen sent up shoots
higher than a couple of feet, because the elk were browsing those
away, too. Without the wolves to manage them, the elk grew big, fat,
and lazy, and they overbrowsed. But since the wolves were reintroduced
in 1995, the elk have had to hide in the tall timber and keep moving,
and now willows and aspens are coming back in along the streams. And
beavers are showing up again, because the waterside trees are

Lloyd: Yet conservation biology has also shown that Yellowstone, as
large as it is, still is not big enough.

Foreman: This is where continental-scale conservation comes in:
"megalinkages." We don't have large intact habitats anymore, outside
of the Arctic, so we have to explore how to link up protected areas to
allow wildlife to move back and forth between them. This is one of the
most exciting developments in conservation today.

Really, we've got to look at the landscape through the eyes of a wolf
or a cougar and identify what parts of North America are still
suitable for these animals. One thing we're recognizing is the
damaging impact of highways on ecosystem health. We recently had a
workshop in Arizona that looked at the spine of the continent -- the
Rocky Mountains -- from this standpoint. We've gotten highway
departments and rental-car companies involved in identifying which
highways are barriers to lynx, mountain lions, bighorn sheep -- you
name it. The highway engineers Iove this problem; it's a technical
challenge for them: how to design roads that aren't a barrier to
wildlife movement and don't cause roadkills. Florida has already done
some reengineering, putting tunnels under interstates for alligators
and cougars to go through. You have to study each animal to know what
it needs.

Lloyd: Why are highway departments and rental-car companies suddenly
interested in working with conservationists?

Foreman: If you look at the number of people killed every year in
collisions with wildlife, and at the insurance cost of damaged
vehicles, you'll understand why. Also, people who work for a highway
department don't like having to drag dead animals off the road all the
time; it gets to you.

Lloyd: Your real reason for removing highway barriers to wildlife
movement is to protect the ecosystem, but the motives of the groups
you just mentioned are more human-centered.

Foreman: You're right, and that illustrates one of my main concerns
about what's happened to the conservation movement: there's too much
pressure to talk about things solely in terms of people. A long time
ago the great conservationist Aldo Leopold warned against trying to
come up with economic arguments for protecting nature, because when
you do that, you basically accept the premise that nature doesn't have
any value in and of itself -- that only things that are economically
valuable should be protected.

Lloyd: You got into trouble once, a long time ago, when you said that
a grizzly bear is just as valuable as a human being. Obviously that
statement isn't going to go over well with many people.

Foreman: No, it's not. But a grizzly bear isn't here for our benefit.
She's here for herself, and I think we need to recognize that. For
that reason, when I go into grizzly-bear country, I don't carry a gun,
because I don't want to have to deal with the possibility of shooting
a bear.

I think it's ok to use economic arguments to a certain degree, but at
the same time, conservationists need to make it clear that the reason
we do what we do is because we love nature. I think that nature
appeals to an awful lot of people. After all, why do people watch
nature shows on television? Why do they buy wildlife calendars? It's
not because animals are worth money. We're just fascinated by them.
And so I've taken on the task, as I travel around the country, of
telling conservationists: Don't apologize for loving nature. Don't
apologize for caring about other species. Celebrate that. Make your
motive clear even while you show how protecting nature also has other

Lloyd: You've helped reintroduce endangered black-footed ferrets to
northern Chihuahua, Mexico.

Foreman: That was a huge success. The black-footed ferret, just like
the ivory-billed woodpecker, had been given up as extinct. After a few
were found, we were able to bring them back to zoos and do captive
breeding until there were enough to release back into the wild. That
doesn't mean we've saved the black-footed ferret by any means, but it
does give me hope, to have actually been there and helped release
them. I didn't touch a ferret, because it probably would have bitten
my finger off, but just being there was really quite exhilarating.

The anticonservationists try to use our successes as evidence that
there's not a problem, but the only reason that we've been able to
reintroduce the black-footed ferret, the whooping crane, the
California condor, and others is because we've worked so hard for it.
Why did any of us do that? Why were people enthusiastic about it?
Because there is some part of people that does care about wild
creatures, and conservationists can appeal to that part. We don't have
to appeal to short-term self-interest. If we do it right, these
critters are going to make the argument for us.

Lloyd: Faced with the difficult task of preserving wilderness, though,
aren't people ultimately going to ask what's in it for them?

Foreman: Yes, to a certain extent, but I think we can also challenge
people with questions like "Do we have the generosity of spirit and
the greatness of heart to share the earth with other species?" That
appeals to something deep in us. And that's the way religions have
always approached problems: by appealing to something beyond self-
interest. I think conservationists used to do that more. That's part
of the problem with the environmental movement today: the Left is
afraid to talk about values and standards, to encourage people to
practice good behavior -- which, ultimately, is a form of long-term
self-interest anyway. After all, what kind of legacy do we want to
leave for our grandkids? How do we want to be remembered?

Lloyd: Have your attempts at bipartisan appeal suffered at all because
of your earlier involvement in Earth First!?

Foreman: Probably to some degree, but that connection comes up much
less frequently now. It's also a serious misunderstanding of Earth
First!, because we were really rednecks for wilderness. I've been a
registered Republican all my life. As a college student in the sixties
I was the New Mexico chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and
worked on Barry Goldwater's campaign for president. I consider myself
a true conservative. But true conservatism is dead in America. I hate
the current Republican Party, but I'm equally disappointed with the

Lloyd: You come from a ranching family.

Foreman: Well, a farming family. We were dry-land, pinto-bean farmers
out in eastern New Mexico, not ranchers. George Bush was born with a
silver spoon in his mouth; I was born with a dirt clod in mine.

Lloyd: The urban/rural split that has long infected the environmental
movement seems to be as bad as ever. How would you, as an activist
with a rural upbringing, go about amending this?

Foreman: Well, for one thing, by combatting the stereotype -- by
calling ourselves "conservationists" instead of "environmentalists,"
and by encouraging rural groups, like the ones in West Virginia that
are fighting mountaintop removal, to stand at the front of the

I also think urban environmentalists and Sierra Club people need to
try harder to understand rural, small-town America. That doesn't mean
we compromise or make deals with the radicals. Rather, it means that
we find our friends on the other side and work with them. This is easy
for me to do, because most of my extended family live in mobile homes
out in the sticks. That's where I come from. But because so many urban
environmentalists don't understand rural America, they don't
understand that there are people out there who love nature and share
some of their values. We don't have to give in to our opponents to
reach those people.

Lloyd: Where I live, in rural east Tennessee, a lot of hunters and
anglers have "Sportsmen for Bush" bumper stickers.

Foreman: Bush is a phony redneck, but he takes in the real rednecks,
because the Right has been able to stereo-type the environmental
movement as being pro-gun control. "They're going to take away your
guns," the right-wingers cry, and a lot of hunters fall for it. But a
lot of other hunters who voted for Bush the first time around didn't
vote for him this time. "What good are the guns," they said, "if we
don't have any places to hunt?"

The Sierra Club does not support gun control, and we've got to let
hunters know that. Unfortunately it does do other things that play
into the Right's stereotypes. For example, the Sierra Club's anti-suv
campaign in the late nineties smacked of elitism. When the Sierra Club
launched its campaign, I was at a meeting of the New Mexico Wilderness
Alliance board of directors. We were camping out, and every one of us
had an suv. How else am I going to haul my gear to the river or get
back to trail heads? I've always wanted to start a group called "Four-
Wheelers for Wilderness," because there are a lot of responsible four-
wheelers. Sure, I wish suvs got thirty miles to the gallon, and they
could if we pressured the car companies, but we won't get there by
attacking the cultural idea of an suv or pickup truck.

Lloyd: Edward Abbey seemed to be able to bridge the divide between
conservationists and sportsmen.

Foreman: Abbey appealed to a lot of people who did not like the Sierra
Club and did not think of themselves as environmentalists. In Earth
First! it was the right-wing Republicans who monkeywrenched and the
leftists who chose civil disobedience. The right-wingers were the
Edward Abbey crowd.

It's sort of a split between individualism and communitarianism. My
Scotch-Irish ancestors were very individualistic and believed that
sometimes you just have to take the law into your own hands. Earth
First! was sort of a rural redneck vigilante movement to protect
nature. But we always distinguished between destruction of property
and harming other people.

Lloyd: Many noteworthy conservationists -- such as David Brower, John
Muir, and Aldo Leopold -- grew up with deep religious roots. Your own
upbringing was Christian fundamentalist. What good did it afford you?

Foreman: Well, it gave me my evangelical public-speaking style.
[Laughter.] I think it also made me comfortable talking about values
and encouraging people to practice good behavior, to think about
something besides themselves. I think the belief in our inherent
tendency to sin also gave me a realistic view of human nature. I don't
expect people to be good, the way a lot of progressives do, so I'm not
disappointed as often.

My upbringing also taught me something about personal responsibility.
Protestant fundamentalism proposes a direct relationship between the
individual and the higher powers: no intermediaries. You figure it out
for yourself. That early training taught me always to question what I
was told and to rely on myself.

Lloyd: Some fundamentalists believe the Bible says that we humans are
here to subdue the earth. On the other hand, some conservative
congregations are beginning to talk about "environmental stewardship."

Foreman: The Evangelical Environmental Network and other groups have
come to the defense of the Endangered Species Act and are in favor of
protecting endangered species from a purely moral standpoint: they say
it's a sin to destroy God's creation. Meanwhile, secular conservation
groups are backing away from ethical arguments for saving endangered
species, making economic arguments or saying that we may find a cure
for cancer in the Amazon.

Some national evangelical leaders are even talking about global
warming. I think they're terrific allies to have. This underscores the
need to promote conservation without handcuffing it to other issues,
so that we can work with any allies who come along.

Lloyd: Let's say that the dream of a continent-wide linkage among
national parks, national forests, preserves, and private wilderness
lands becomes a reality. A hundred years from now, how do you envision
humankind's relationship with that environment?

Foreman: I think that civilization and real wilderness can coexist in
North America and elsewhere, but we've got to allow room for
wilderness and wild creatures. A favorite word of mine is wildeor,
which goes back to the time of Beowulf and the origins of the English
language. It means the "self-willed beast." From the very beginning,
civilization has tried to domesticate the beasts, and if we can't
domesticate them, then we destroy them. We've got to allow land to be
wilderness, which means, in Old English, "self-willed land." Letting
some things have a will of their own, not trying to control everything
-- that is the challenge.

Lloyd: The United States is a relatively young country compared with
the rest of the world. A number of conservation-minded observers have
argued that it's time for us to grow up and out of the early
pioneering-and-conquering stage of our history.

Foreman: Well, the whole world needs to outgrow that stage. It's not
fair to single out the U.S. Just as America has led the world in the
destruction of nature, it has also led the world in the conservation
of nature. We have a kind of split-personality heritage. Progressives
are much quicker to criticize the U.S. than they are to criticize
other countries, but I think we can be proud of the good things the
United States has done: the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of
Independence, the Wilderness Act, and the Endangered Species Act are
all high points of Western civilization. But pride in our achievements
is different from the kind of nationalism that George Bush and the
neoconservatives are pushing now.

Lloyd: I was surprised to learn that you received your first death
threat in 1973, long before you cofounded Earth First!

Foreman: The only death threats I've ever been sent came when I worked
with the Wilderness Society in the seventies.

Lloyd: Why do you think that is? Is it perhaps due in part to Earth
First!'s own show of force -- at least against inanimate objects?

Foreman: I think so. When you show that you aren't going to back down,
that you're going to defend yourself, your opponents are going to
respect you more. Another stereotype of the environmentalists is that
they're wimps, and the Right doesn't respect that.

In some ways my fight with the anticonservationists -- and
particularly with the redneck anticonservationists -- is like a feud
between two clans of Scots.

Lloyd: President Bush wants to allow oil drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. If it comes down to it, do you support using
Earth First!-type tactics to prevent this?

Foreman: Well, I think civil disobedience would certainly be called
for to block oil-exploration groups from going into the refuge. But as
far as I'm concerned, Earth First! doesn't really exist anymore.
People who call themselves members of Earth First! are basically part
of the international anarchist animal-rights movement -- though there
are people sitting in trees in the Pacific Northwest, and even in the
East, trying to prevent logging, and I honor them for what they're
doing. To put yourself on the line like that is still appropriate.

Lloyd: What would it take to make more environmentalists defend
natural resources by whatever means necessary, short of hurting

Foreman: I think that when the shit hits the fan with climate change,
it's going to wake a lot of people up. Some of the more recent
findings on the consequences of the greenhouse effect indicate that it
could hit fairly soon.

What is it about humans that we don't think very long term? A problem
really has to hit us over the head before we'll deal with it. What
helped drive enthusiasm for Earth Day in 1970 was that people were
actually feeling the effects of pollution. It was right there in the
air and water. Unfortunately, I think people will have to feel the
catastrophic effects of climate change before they do something
about it.

The neocons and the radical libertarians and the corporatists might
never wake up. Their theory is that Earth is totally resilient, an
endless storehouse of resources. They don't believe in ecology. They
don't believe we can affect the global climate. They have to pooh-pooh
all of the damage that we're doing to Earth, because it doesn't fit
their theory.

Lloyd: The fallenness of all humanity and all human institutions is a
core tenet of conservative Protestant theology, but in the eyes of the
neocons, the market we've created is infallible.

Foreman: The radical Right is deeply divided when it comes to views of
human nature. I think traditional conservatives have been very much
manipulated by corporate and neoconservative interests. The Right has
been very effective at fighting a "culture war," whereas many in the
progressive community for a Iong time didn't realize there was a
culture war. They just kept doing things that reinforced the
stereotype that the corporatists were feeding to the populace.

Lloyd: If we can't trust government agencies to protect our wild
lands, and recycling and hybrid cars are not enough, what do you
propose the average citizen do to conserve the environment?

Foreman: Conservation works best when conservationists know and love
specific places and specific critters, because then they'll work their
hearts out for them and make sure that the politicians do something.
So we've got to know our natural areas, and then get involved with
conservation groups and make our voices heard. George Bush isn't going
to listen to us, and his political appointees aren't going to listen
to us, but I'm convinced there are Republican members of Congress who,
if they hear enough from their constituents, will make some changes.

My friend Brian O'Donnell was with the Alaska Wilderness League back
in the late nineties, when Alaska Senator Ted Stevens put in a rider
that would have allowed tourism companies to land helicopters in
wilderness areas in Alaska. Stevens was the chair of the Senate
transportation committee and a really vindictive guy. All of the
conservation groups said, "Well, we've lost this one." But Brian had a
strategy. Congressmen Frank Wolf of Virginia and Ralph Regula of Ohio
were the Republican chairs of the transportation committee in the
House. Brian convinced hunters and anglers in their districts, groups
affiliated with the NRA, to write to Regula and Wolf and say this
rider was an outrage and would spoil the hunting experience in Alaska.
When Stevens's bill came through the House for approval, Regula and
Wolf led the fight to defeat it.

That's the kind of strategy we need nationally right now, to convince
Republican senators and representatives to vote for conservation. To
do this, we need to go outside the circle of people that urban
environmentalists feel comfortable with and talk to those who are
turned off by the environmentalist stereotype, but who agree with us
on protecting wilderness and wildlife.

Lloyd: In the conclusion of Rewilding North America you say that you
are not optimistic, but you are hopeful. How do you make that

Foreman: I think hope is much more realistic than optimism. People who
are optimistic just aren't paying attention. But we human beings need
a glimmer of hope out there. And so my task, as I see it, is to create
an achievable vision of how civilization and wilderness can coexist.
That doesn't mean it's going to be easy, or even that it will happen,
but it allows me to have hope.

Both liberals and libertarians, who really occupy opposite ends of the
same spectrum, have an optimistic view of human nature. They think
that human institutions are perfectible and will work in the long run.
One of my favorite books is David Ehrenfeld's The Arrogance of
Humanism. He defines humanism as the belief that humans can solve all
their problems; that if there's not a technological solution, there's
a social or political solution; that all resources are either infinite
or replaceable; that we will muddle through, and civilization will
continue forever. And I'm here to say that it won't. We won't.

People call me a Cassandra, after the Trojan prophetess whose dire
predictions no one believed. But I don't mind. After all, Cassandra
was right; it's just that nobody believed her. The hope I have is that
people will pay attention to the Cassandras in their midst.