Remembering Judi Bari’s Revolutionary Ecology

October, 2016

Editor’s Note: Judi Bari was an influential environmental activist and principle organizer of the Earth First! fight against logging of old growth redwood forests in Northern California in the 80s and 90s. She and fellow activist Daryl Cherney were victims of a suspicious car bomb attack on May 24,1990. She died from breast cancer on March 2, 1997. 

Judi would have been 67 on November 7 this year. 

This reader-submitted essay seeks to remind us of her perspectives on Revolutionary Ecology. Her manifesto can be found online at www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html.

A specter of self-destruction is stalking humanity. The human species is not imprisoned in mind and labor within the institutions and relations of its Frankenstein monster, global capitalism. Extinction or a new Stone Age on a ruined planet loom.

There is no popular understanding of the root cause of our human end game, thus no effective response. We must create paths out of capitalism into a human future, but the necessary grassroots awareness of life’s communal organization is missing. 

I’m a deep red-green organizational theorist. I’ve learned to view human nature and Mother Nature with a synthesis of the long-buried, authentic Karl Marxism and the new science(s) of life’s organizational relations. 

Well, are we not life? Human social ecology (red) must be organized as a natural ecology (green), and there is a way. 

Judi Bari was red-green. Her Marxism was old left but accurately assessed capitalism, and she embraced Deep Ecology. So let’s remember a remarkable American and view the approaching catastrophe through Judi’s eyes. 

Readers of EcoNews can bring Judi’s revolutionary ecology back to life. Learn to organize in the pattern of life and community. I challenge you to engage this essay’s major points with open but critical minds. 

Judi’s manifesto, “Revolutionary Ecology” (available on the web), married red and green. She knew forest workers and forest protectors must unite against their common enemy, capitalism. Other Earth First!ers, though, fixated on wilderness protection alone, accompanied by macho campfire blowouts. 

Deep Ecology, the creation of the recently deceased Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, has been defined as the “philosophical, spiritual, and scientific practice of life-centeredness, as outlined by the 8 points.” An eight-point platform for Deep Ecology was composed by Naess with an assist from George Sessions during a 1984 camping trip in Death Valley. 

The first three of these points establish humanity’s place in life. They declare, in essence, that the richness and diversity, well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life are the ultimate values, and that “humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs. “ The inference is that we are natural beings who must consciously live according to life’s “rules.”

Deep Ecology thus understands it is our human potential to live as life with awareness of itself. Or, as Marx put it, the human animal is to become the human being. 

The life process and its living systems produce an ecologically sustainable “profit” of energy and relations. This natural surplus is generated through photosynthesis and the reproduction of copious offspring that provide continuity, energy (food), ecological relations, and evolutionary adjustments. Life maintains its communal, systemic being in this manner. 

But the cancer of capitalism has now metastasized life in all its forms as it pursues its imperative to relentlessly increase profits.  Its malignant organization attacks, perverts, and destroys living systems and relationships. Like a cancer, capitalism is programmed to kill its host and itself. We’re almost there. 

Judi assessed: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the Earth and the exploitation of the people.” She concluded, “serious ecologists must be revolutionaries.” 

Earth’s living systems—cells to biosphere—are self-organized, integrated wholes existing in dynamic interdependence with each other and nature’s physical forces. Life is community. Communism’s organization is similarly defined in the Manifesto as “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” But how might people who are perceptually blind to life’s organizational pattern learn to birth viable red-green social systems within a globalized capitalism?

The answer is that the living system theorist, Fritjof Capra, has miraculously managed to portray life’s universal pattern of organization. I call his conceptual model of living organization “Capra’s triangle,” and the triangle and the new organizational science are brought to earth for popular understanding and use in Capra’s masterwork, Web of Life (1996). I believe Capra’s triangle is the key to consciously organized, bottom-up processes of personal and social transformation. 

So! Are any of Judi’s “serious ecologists” around? Capra’s triangle can bring green dreams to life. 

See ya, Judi.