Monkeywrenching: The Act of “Terror” With the Intent to Preserve the Environment

Source: YouTube

The concept of monkeywrenching brings about the conversation that not everything moral is legal and not everything legal is moral. Monkeywrenching is the term used to describe a type of ecodefense that involves sabotaging machinery or actions that pose a threat to the environment.

Monkeywrenching is nonviolent and while in some cases it is referred to as terrorism, such as when a group of activists burnt down an Oregon timber plant, monkeywrenchers such as those in the Earth Liberation Front pride themselves on having no intended casualties. Those being negatively affected by monkeywrenching are those who would be the cause of mass casualties if their projects went through.

The first time the term monkeywrenching was used outside of reference to the adjustable tool was in Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” The fictional novel covers what one would expect, a group of individuals protesting actions that would destroy the environment through the use of sabotage.

A trailer about Edward Abbey, writer of “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” (Source: YouTube/San Francisco Green Film Festival)

Monkeywrenching became even more popular after 1985 when Dave Foreman published his book “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.” This book gave instructions on how to delay any resource industry plans that would harm the environment. It explained how to decommission bulldozers so that they were unusable, pull out survey stakes, spike trees, and many other forms of destabilization.

Tree spiking sounds hypocritical in the sense that the perpetrator is driving nails into a tree, but when done properly with the right type of spikes, it does not cause harm to the trees and instead damages the equipment being used to cut the trees down. If the tree is cut down anyways, spikes that go unfound will then damage the sawmill.

Monkeywrenching is strategic and is often used as a last-ditch effort when all other means to stop destruction of the environment have failed. While it is typically associated with aggression and destruction, there are peaceful instances of monkeywrenching such as Julia Butterfly Hill living in a tree.

Julia Butterfly Hill visited the redwoods in California in 1997 for a fundraiser to save the forests. People were rotating tree-sitters in order to delay loggers attempting to clearcut the redwoods. Hill was chosen to stay in a tree for one week as a protest and she ended up living in the tree for 738 days. Her sit-in allowed for an agreement to be made among the loggers and the protestors that somewhat satisfied both of their needs.

We are living in a tense climate with much conversation concerning the environment and what is truly right and wrong. Sometimes it is important to ask whether something for the sake of human benefit is really worth all of the destruction it causes elsewhere.

Question others, question one’s self and remember to stay educated and aware.

Hannah Shafer

Are they terrorists or not? A PBS documentary explores the Earth Liberation Front and what they stand for. (Source: YouTube/PBS NewsHour)

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