Arrested Anti-Development

October 15, 2009

Q+A: Environmental Activist Mike RoselleHere’s an interview with Environmental activist Mike Roselle in Time Magazine. I sat around a campfire with Roselle about twelve years ago, rehashing some of his tales from the early days of Greenpeace.  As should be clear from this interview, he’s a pretty radical dude, he’s taken some pretty aggressive actions, and as a result of this, his stories are truly fascinating.  I don’t think I said anything the whole night.

Among the courses that I teach regularly, one of my favorite is an upper division course on property and protest. The course is ultimately geared to address conceptual concerns that strike me as more centrally at the heart of environmental issues than those that generally frame the debate: namely, nature and wilderness.  Instead, I look directly at what is moving the issue: property and protest.  We address a range of theories about the origin and legitimacy of property rights and then ask questions about the extent to which property rights fall into place against other concerns, like human rights and environmental policy.  We also look at various activist strategies, including symbolic protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, monkey wrenching, property destruction, and sabotage.   As far as readings, the course starts with history from the Sagebrush Rebellion and the Wise Use Movement, and then moves back through the history of property rights, past some of the legislative ‘takings’ cases, and up through the tactics of Earth First! It’s a great class, if I do say so myself.

I may be picking up this book to add to my syllabus.  Any feedback or thoughts on Roselle’s tales would be much appreciated.  Also, if anyone has suggestions for readings from the Wise Use movement, particularly regarding actions and events that have shaped reactions to the environmental crowd, I’d be interested to hear those as well.


  1. When I read this interview, my first reaction was, “Why in the world would you consider using a book written by this nut job?”? Why not use Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto instead?

    He may be entertaining to listen to around a campfire, but he demonstrates that he doesn’t care about anything other than HIS beliefs. If YOU do something that he doesn’t agree with, watch out. He doesn’t care what you think. He doesn’t care what the law says. He just doesn’t care. So, spike those trees! (No, you really shouldn’t do that. Spiking trees is bad. SOMEONE COULD GET HURT…. In fact, someone did get hurt… so, no, dude, don’t do that… just non-violent protests and stuff… That’s why the title of the book is called, Non-Violent Protests and Stuff…. no, wait, it’s Tree Spiker.)

    But, dude, it’s OK, because we’re doing it IN THE DAYLIGHT!

    This guy isn’t Ghandi. He isn’t someone to be admired or idolized.


  2. I like to introduce my students to a range of views, however outrageous. I have them read stuff by Ron Arnold too. Fact is, if they’re interested in environmental politics, these are views they’ll encounter.

    • Most students today seem to be ignorant of the underpinnings of private property rights and individual liberty. Why not introduce them to the U.S. Constitution instead?

      • I agree that they’re largely oblivious to the underlying property rights discussion, which is why I designed the class in the first place. Of course, I _could_ have them read the Constitution, but that’d be maybe more appropriate for a law or a political science class. I teach philosophy, so for my class, and given my background, it makes better sense to have them read the theory that ultimately gave rise to the Constitution.

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