A conversation with Logan Perkins of Maine Earth First!
The Irregular recently composed a number of questions for Maine Earth First! based largely on questions and concerns voiced by a number of locals either in person or via our Facebook page. The answers were provided by Logan Perkins who has been active with Maine Earth First! since 1999 and has worked on a number of environmental issues around the state. She was one of the organizers for the Round River Rendezvous held in Coplin earlier this month and currently lives in the greater Bangor area. Question: None of the protesters arrested were from Maine (which a number of locals are at pains to point out, asking why Mainers weren’t on the front lines risking jail time if the cause is so dire). Why weren’t they? Is there a strategic reason, if so what is it? Answer: Okay… Six Maine residents were arrested last fall protesting the LURC decision to approve Plum Creek’s massive development project in the Moosehead Lake region. This is only one example of the way that many Maine Earth First!ers have demonstrated in the past that they are willing to get arrested and/or take a powerful stand on local issues.
Getting arrested for civil disobedience is a complex and time consuming process, which requires a substantial commitment and willingness to follow through. Part of the action is resisting those charges and being willing to go to trial to continue to advance the public debate on whatever issue is at hand.
That said, there were many Mainers who were willing and ready to get arrested at the Kibby protest, but it just did not work out that way. However, there will be a substantial commitment of time, energy and organizing by local Earth First!ers invested in supporting the arrestees and following through on their cases.
We recognize that it would have been better in terms of public perception if a couple of locals were arrested, and damned if we did not try, but believe it or not we can not actually control what law enforcement does in those situations.
How do Earth First! members (or the organization as a whole for that matter) justify their expenditure of Earth’s resources to come from out-of-state to get to this rendezvous? First, understand that in my experience, individual Earth First!ers are highly conscientious about their resource consumption. The vast majority of folks who traveled to the Western Mountains did so as efficiently as possible. I know that many people carpooled, hitchhiked and hopped freight trains to get here. Others drove or flew. In general most Earth First!ers are dedicated to living low impact, less consumptive lifestyles. I would say that most of the Earth First!ers I know who do fly to events like this don’t do so lightly or blindly, but instead make a conscious and difficult choice.
To choose to personally consume a massive quantity of the earth’s resources carries with it an immense responsibility to give back to the planet, perhaps by dedicating some of your life energy to fighting for the integrity of the planet and its natural systems.
I also think that we tend to place too much emphasis on individual consumer choices when we look at the kinds of changes that need to be made in order to transition to a more sustainable culture. Individual consumer airline travel makes up only a small fraction of the air traffic on the planet. Military, industrial and freight air traffic constitutes the lion’s share of air traffic and all its associated resource consumption. These are issues that need to be addressed at a systemic level, and can’t be reduced to individual consumer choices.
Unless Earth First! is urging all folks to return to a pre-industrial existence, how do they propose power be generated? In the face of all their protests, what are Earth First’s solutions or alternatives? Earth First! itself is a movement in defense of the earth. It is not a movement focused on solutions or alternatives. That said, in their individual lives, many Earth First!ers work on solutions and alternatives. I would say that generally, these solutions are about reducing individual consumption and developing appropriate technology alternatives.
In terms of power generation in particular, I can’t speak for the movement as a whole, but am happy to share my personal thoughts. First, I think we have a massive consumption problem. Everyday we consume three times the amount of energy that the earth receives from the sun daily. We have to cut back to at least one third of our current energy use. And that is only if we are willing to capture and use every single ray of sunlight that hits the earth everyday and every bit of sunlight derived energy, like moving wind and water.
Even if that were desirable it would be basically impossible. So actually we need to reduce our consumption to more like 1/10th of what it is right now.
Once we have done that, I am then willing to talk about how to best produce that power. I would advocate for locally produced and community controlled power production. I think it is central to Democracy that communities have the power to decide how much and what kind of energy they want to produce, and that they have to deal with the very real repercussions of those choices on the health of the local populations –human and ecological.
I think if we generated all of our power locally, you would see very few communities wiling to produce nuclear power, burn coal, or devastate mountain tops to produce electricity.
Many locals view the Earth First! position as all or nothing –completely uncompromising. Some feel that the group’s position is more aligned with nobody living in the north woods, unless they are living strictly off the land. Comment on this perception. In Maine, Earth First!ers have a long history of building alliances with workers and small businesses who are interested in standing up to the exploitative, resource extraction models of multinational corporations that own vast tracts of our state.
Logging is not the problem. Stripping the forests faster than they can regenerate in the name of stockholder dividends and corporate bottom lines is the problem. Maine workers suffer right along with the health of our ecological systems when large corporations from away seek to maximize their profits by extracting Maine’s natural resources as raw materials and shipping them out of state for processing.
All Mainers would benefit from locally controlled, sustainable use of our natural resources to produce value added products for Maine people. Maine Earth First! envisions a world where human communities live in balanced ecological communities. Wilderness is important, but so are thriving human communities living in balance with their environment.
From what we understand, there were no protests at the LURC meeting Wednesday (July 7). Why weren’t they there? Many people spent Wednesday cleaning up camp on the Powers’ land. There were many folks present at the LURC meeting that Maine Earth First considers allies. We try to target our protests to the most strategic moments and places. Wednesday’s LURC meeting was on our radar, but was not the appropriate time for a confrontational protest. I think LURC heard our message loud and clear on Tuesday.
The LURC commission indicated through a straw poll that it would not approve the additional turbines near Sisk. Will MEF continue to fight TransCanada’s expansion plans, other wind development, etc.? What will Maine Earth First! focus on next specifically? Yes, Maine Earth First! will continue to fight industrial wind development. We oppose industrial wind power projects cited in ecologically sensitive areas that are not directly displacing fossil energy production. Projects such as the Kibby and Sisk mountain plans do far more harm than good, and force local Maine communities to bear the burdens and ill effects of “green” energy development which is then sold to Massachusetts. These projects do nothing to reduce local energy costs, and by the time they offset the energy budget of their own industrial production processes, have negligible climate change carbon offset value.
Will there be a specific presence in the area in the future? Are people still in Coplin? There were rumors that some will stay the entire summer. Only Mainers will be around for the entire summer, and beyond!
Everyone is out of Coplin as of Friday, except of course Basil and Harriet Powers and anyone we converted while we were there. (We have) no specific plans or presence at this time.
Is there anyway to quantify the number of people associated with Earth First! either nationally or in Maine? No. Earth First! is a mindset, not a membership organization. The number of people is not important. The impact we have is what is important.
Do you feel that those who were arrested will make their court hearing dates? There are lawyers who have volunteered to represent all those arrested. The arrestees will work with local Earth First!ers and attorneys on how to best proceed regarding the charges.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? No Big Wind! No Compromise!