A new crop of local activists is advocating for militant actions—including sabotage—to defend the environment.
Organizers of Deep Green Resistance Vancouver say that usual tactics like holding rallies, handing out flyers, and participating in public forums aren’t enough.
Although they emphasize that as an aboveground organization they’ll only engage in nonviolent actions, one of the group’s stated objectives is to “shift public opinion toward supporting an underground resistance that exists or may come to exist”.
“It was born out of necessity,” Jason Doherty said about the concept of “deep green resistance” during a phone interview with the Straight. “A lot of environmental groups play a vital role in protecting the environment. However, if you look back at the track record of these organizations, you’ll find that a majority of them are dealing with a fairly dismal track record in terms of the actual destruction that they’ve prevented.”
That also explains why Doherty won’t denounce people like Rebecca Rubin. The former North Vancouver resident surrendered to American authorities on November 29, 2012, after six years on the run. She was wanted for her alleged involvement in arson attacks by the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front in the U.S. more than a decade ago.
“I’m not drawing any lines at this point in time,” Doherty said. “I wouldn’t condemn their actions.”
The Deep Green Resistance movement started in North America. It was inspired by the 2011 book Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet by Canadian author Aric McBay and Americans Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen.
Joe Foy has been involved in the Canadian environmental movement since the mid ’80s, and the national campaign director of the Vancouver-based Wilderness Committee is familiar with the thinking behind direct action.
“I understand the philosophy and, certainly, when one looks at the loss of species, the decline of the oceans, the destruction of farmland, and especially the changing climate, an argument can be made that environmental protection would necessitate actions that may damage equipment or put people at risk,” Foy told the Straight in a phone interview. “I disagree with that. I think that if we are trying to build a society worth having, we should maintain the peaceful and respectful society that we have here in Canada and try to improve on it, not go the other way and create a society where decisions are made by who can wreak the most damage on the other. I reject that notion.”
But according to Daniel Whittingstall, an organizer with Deep Green Resistance Vancouver, the mainstream environmental movement has “only put a Band-Aid” over the deteriorating health of the planet.
“For those of us that are in the [Deep Green Resistance] movement…our direct action would be the protesting and the blockades and the petitioning but also the advocating for, like, basically sabotaging the system so that the system will crash in on itself,” Whittingstall told the Straight in a phone interview. “Now, we won’t actually be doing that, but we advocate and we try to educate the public on the need for that to happen.”
Kevin Washbrook engaged in civil disobedience when he and other activists stood on the train tracks in White Rock to stop rail shipments of coal to Delta in May 2012. For that action, they were arrested.
Washbrook has heard about Deep Green Resistance and says he understands the frustration and anger that some feel about the continuing degradation of the environment. However, he believes that direct action will ultimately fail as a strategy because it will only invite a violent response from the government.
“Is the goal to try and solve the problem yourself through your action, or is the goal to point out to society that there is a moral and ethical dilemma that everyone’s ignoring [and] that needs to be confronted?” Washbrook said in a phone interview with the Straight. “I think it’s the latter.”
With B.C. as ground zero in the expansion of oil and gas pipelines, Deep Green Resistance Vancouver may yet find fertile ground for its call to defend the environment through direct action.