COLUMN LEFT/ MARK DAVIS : No Regret for Trying to Save the Earth : Better to break the law than to sit and watch our planet die.

<i> Mark Davis, a member of Earth First!, was sentenced Sept. 6 for his role in damaging a ski lift pylon at Snowbowl ski resort near Flagstaff, Ariz., and power lines</i>

A few days ago, I stood in front of a federal judge as he sentenced me to six years in prison on “monkeywrenching” charges; I had destroyed machinery with the intention of slightly slowing the accelerating destruction of our planet.

A few days from now, I will begin to serve my term. I am in terrible pain at the thought of separation from my two little daughters. I am a severe claustrophobe, and lost 40 pounds in the two months of incarceration that followed my arrest. Prison will be more than usually difficult for me. But none of it matters much in the context of the crisis in which we find ourselves.

We humans are collectively killing this planet and dooming our own children by indulging in an orgy of consumption and denial. The killing is quite legal: Whatever fragile legislative protections are enacted to slow it are abandoned when it becomes economically inconvenient to retain them. We yearly release millions of tons of chemical and radioactive poisons into our food, air and water--poisons that in some cases carry the threat of harm for 100 times longer than humans have had written records. It is, we are informed, not economically feasible to do otherwise. The Smithsonian Institution recently informed us that one-third to one-half of all existing species will become extinct in the next few decades. The Earth, in plain terms, is dying. The battle over environmental issues is not about logging jobs versus hiking trails, as our captains of industry would have us believe. It is about the continued existence of life forms higher than the cockroach on this planet. We’re losing.

We are gobbling the seed-stock of life and pretending that the free lunch can go on forever. The biosphere in which our species evolved has served to sustain us quite well for millennia. Yet those who seek to stop the brutal assault on our shared home are condemned as radicals by men whose self-proclaimed conservatism is really nothing more than a demand to be allowed to enrich themselves at any cost.


An intelligent conservative knows some deep truths, including the illusory nature of free lunches and the inadvisability of taking irreversible actions without understanding the consequences. Our behavior is neither intelligent nor conservative.

I have learned through working with the dying and the addicted the incredible power of denial in the human psyche. Denial is what allows the addict to consume more poison, allows the smoker to assign that pain in his lungs to a temporary cold. The dying classically progress through certain easily recognizable stages on their journey. Denial is first, followed by bargaining, anger and finally, for those fortunate enough to reach it, peace and acceptance. We are as a culture and a species mostly in the denial stage, with a tentative reach into bargaining as we grudgingly accept the need to recycle a very few of the most convenient items we demand from our industries. Denial seldom solves anything, but it does allow an extended period of pretend well-being and good feelings. Our cultural denial is reinforced by an economy that is structured in such a way that survival can only be assured by growth.

Growth by its very nature means an increase in the speed and efficiency of environmental destruction. All of our political and corporate leaders owe both their wealth and their power to growth. Anyone who says aloud that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible is ridiculed. Denial has become official policy.

There are two forms of biological growth. A healthy organism is born, grows to its genetically programmed size, reproduces and dies at the appropriate time. Cancer is also growth, a wild replication of one form of cell at the expense of all others within an organism. Unchecked, cancer kills its host and itself. Industrial civilization is a cancer on the body of the Earth. We must change course dramatically if we wish our children to survive.


If what I and my three colleagues did has no effect other than to further damage an already tattered social contract, then I apologize for my part in it. That was not the point. I acknowledge the necessity of courts and laws, and accept my prison term. But I am not sorry.

We are in desperate trouble on this Earth, and unless the thick veil of denial is torn, and quickly, we will march ourselves and the rest of the beings with whom we share this sweet planet into possible extinction. Our actions were an attempt, ill-conceived or not, to wake our dreaming society. The effort was made not for personal gain but on behalf of all beings and their unborn offspring. I hope someone is listening.