Lantern Books (2004)
Reviewed by Jeffrey Panettiere
Craig Rosebraugh was spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and eventually and predominantly, for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) from 1997-2001. In Burning Rage of a Dying Planet, Rosebraugh weaves his personal history with activism in Animal rights & Animal liberation with the history of the ALF and ELF. He began receiving anonymous communiqué’s from the ALF and ELF describing the motivations for their economic sabotage against institutions deemed threats towards animals and ecosystems.
Presuming these communiqués were being sent to him so that he could disseminate and describe the motivations for the underground actions, Rosebraugh becomes an informal above-ground spokesperson for the ELF. Acting as an intermediary between the anonymous, autonomous cells of the ELF and “the public”, his role was to relay that their actions were meticulously researched, logically compelling, ecologically necessary, well-planned, usually directly effective and had caused harm only to property and profits, but never to life. He often attempted to show that the ecological destruction caused by greed for control of property and profit by industries and government made such targets deserving of these actions. In doing so, he discretely (and sometimes overtly) challenges us to question our definitions of violence and assumptions about acceptable tactics of resistance. This is done, however, from more of a research, logical and autobiographical method rather than by conceptual or philosophical probing.
Indirectly highlighting his contribution to the spread of the ELF, Rosebraugh states that “the primary way in which an organization such as the ELF can grow is through the spread of its ideology.” “New cells can be created only if the ideology reaches and appeals to more people.” (Rosebraugh: 120). He sees his role in this context as multifunctional: disseminate the ideology of the ELF (in turn, spreading ELF actions), provide context to their actions, and not only force issues such as Habitat destruction, logging, genetic engineering, urban sprawl and Animal testing into public consciousness, but do so from a radical, uncompromising and biocentric perspective. From the time of the first communiqué’s until around 2001, the ELF in the United States had evolved from a relatively localized set of militant direct action & sabotage throughout the Pacific Northwest to a nation-wide and now international movement.
In describing their actions, Rosebraugh highlights how in many situations, legal, peaceful and socially acceptable actions and forms of resistance to ecological destruction had failed to effectively stop destructive projects. Yet, despite their effectiveness, ELF actions only polarized the environmentalist community-a weakness, he notes, that is frequently exploited by the authorities. By sharing his research into the actions of the ELF, he informs the reader about not only the actions themselves and their implications, but the larger context in which they took place. Not only do we learn his personal history and the history of ELF actions, but we get well-researched introductions to several pressing issues regarding environmental justice & ethics.
As Rosebraugh becomes further entangled in publicly defending the militant economic sabotage of the ELF through the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office (NAELFPO), government repression steps up. Every step of the way- grand juries, harassment, strategically timed raids and constant surveillance haunt Rosebraugh; and for his trouble the readers also get some valuable lessons in security culture, police tactics and legal defense.
As the primary spokesperson for a growing movement labeled as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat in the United States, the pressure of being ELF’s public defender as well as other concerns convince Rosebraugh to step aside from his position. He notes the potential contradiction in being the spokesperson for an anonymous, autonomous, militant direct action movement, and of the need for there to be more public defenders of Earth Liberation tactics in general.
Some literature whose material heavily overlap with Burning Rage:
- Earth Liberation Front 1997-2002 by Leslie James Pickering
- Igniting a Revolution: Voices In Defense of the Earth by Steven Best & Anthony J. Nocella II (editors)
- Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflection on the Liberation of Animals by Anthony J. Nocella II & Steven Best
- Confessions of an Eco Warrior by Dave Foreman
- Flaming Arrows: A Compliation of Works by Rod Coronado.
- Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism by Bron Raymond Taylor