The University of California is preparing to obliterate People’s Park in Berkeley by constructing high-rise student dormitories there — construction could start as soon as June when UC students leave for summer break. In their fucking dreams! The university will never get away with it despite the sense of resignation and inevitability hanging in the air like the stench of rancid french fry grease.
Slingshot does not know and therefore cannot disclose the specifics but People’s Park is magic — it is not governed by the standard laws of physics or social norms. So don’t believe the hype: There will be a mass mobilization to defend the Park the minute the UC moves to install a fence. Or maybe dragons will emerge from volcanos — who the fuck knows but the UC should be careful stirring up the demons that inhabit the park.
People’s Park, located between Haste and Dwight Streets east of Telegraph Avenue, was constructed without permission in 1969 to create a beautiful community on vacant UC land. UC’s first attempt to seize and destroy the park in 1969 led to rioting, police shootings that left bystander James Rector dead and dozens wounded, and a week-long National Guard occupation of Berkeley. Since its re-opening in 1980 the park stands as a wild and free space that attracts people searching for a different world. A world not predicated on war, racism and exploitation.
The Park wasn’t then and isn’t now about merely a homeless encampment, no matter how UC wants to frame it to our deep disadvantage. If we allow the Park to just be about a homeless encampment, we’ve already lost. The park is about seizing institutional land and returning it to the commons. It is about reorganizing the whole society — a model for collectivizing factories, housing and farms. It’s about recognizing the value of open space and recreation.
UC has always claimed to own the Park, but since 1969 they have never been able to control it. What happens isn’t up to them — their land title is dripping in blood. It’s up to us.
The largest forest defense action in Canada continues at Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) — a generational renewal of so-called British Columbia’s infamous “war in the woods.”
If you desire to participate in subversion of authority and widening a major social rupture, we look forward to seeing you here!
The majestic braids of the San Juan River delta flow into the Pacific Ocean on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. This watershed and others here on unceded Pacheedaht and Ditidaht territories are home to everything from salmon to giant green sturgeon, and the biggest trees still standing in so-called Canada: the Cheewhat Cedar, the San Juan Spruce and the Red Creek Fir. Ada’itsx (pronounced “ah-dah-itch”) is the last unlogged tributary of the San Juan, and a grassroots, anti-colonial land defense movement has maintained a blockade against logging company Teal Jones here for almost two years.
This ancient, temperate rainforest is high in biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and is an inseperable part of Indigenous land and culture.
Some stands exceed the biomass found in any tropical forest. In response to a militarized police invasion begun in May 2021, thousands of people joined the blockade movement locally, at numerous solidarity actions near and far, and were inspired to start similar blockades in their neck of the woods.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has always been a colonial paramilitary force, and recently, their Orwellian “Community Industry Response Group” (CIRG) has stepped up attacks on land defense movements. There have been media-friendly civil disobedience style arrests at Ada’itsx, especially in the first few weeks of the CIRG-led police invasion, but over time the police crackdown has become more arbitrary and hazardous. Wearing banned white supremacist “thin blue line” patches instead of badge numbers, the cops use extra-judicial “exclusion zones” to deny access to media, and illegally card, search, detain or arrest people, many without charge, often releasing them within hours nearby.
“Nonviolent direct action” in this context is a myth.
Blockading is economic violence. Some logging industry workers have lost their jobs due to the blockades. “Peacefully” obstructing the RCMP’s invasion for month after month is economic violence against the state. Digging trenches in logging roads is economic violence in the form of sabotage. Offering one’s self up to be beaten to a pulp by a cop or a logger while locked down in a trench is violent, to one’s self and one’s community. Blockaders voluntarily suturing their arms together to dissuade arrest is not only violent to themselves, but potentially to other blockaders and police via blood-borne illness.
Courageously, some land defenders are breaking free from the theatre of the absurd that is the cult of nonviolence.
Some folks have been resisting arrest, de-arresting comrades, pushing police as they push past police lines (using a tactic called “the blob” which is somewhat similar to the black bloc), holding steady at a blockade position as needed before vanishing into the bush before they can be arrested, etc. Strategically, gates have been locked, others have been cut free of their locks, and increasingly, the police themselves are the target of the action, whether it’s a clandestine lock on the gate to their compound, or a blockade setup specifically against their vehicles. The brutality of the police has been met with relentless rebellion and fortitude that land defenders bring to the frontlines every single day.
The Ada’itsx blockade movement also has a deep understanding of the need for a holistic approach to resistance, with sanctuary spaces and aftercare services (such as counseling and physical therapies) freely available, and a broad spectrum of frontline and non-frontline activities that people from a diversity of abilities and identities can participate in.
Liberal nonviolence dogma still pervades much of local resistance culture. It contributes to deflection of resistance vs state forces to reformist diversions, such as ill-informed and/or misleading calls for police reform, “accountability”, attempts without precedent to stop the police in the courts, and slogans that reinforce the carceral state like “lock up the real criminals” (ie. the logging industry and its captured politicans). The insidious notions that “bad policing” or “dishonest politicians” are to blame, obscure the reality that this colony’s police and politicians are doing exactly what they’ve been mandated to do. They sharpen their knives and attack, as inequality and repression increase, resources are depleted and the planet dies.
The cops are the army, are the industry, are the government, are the predator, are the enemy, and this is nothing if not a war for our very survival… BC’s perennial “war in the woods” is not just a catchy, metaphorical brand.
We hold the enemy accountable by defending the land, defending ourselves, and fighting back. We are accountable to ourselves when we realize that there is no such thing as justice, only liberation, and do what is necessary to make it happen.
For a diversity of tactics. For unmediated hostility against the state. For total liberation.
check out Creeker: vol. 1 — the first in a series of autonomous, anti-authoritarian zines of curated art, poetry, reflections and analysis from the frontlines of the Ada’itsx blockades. Grab PDFs for reading or printing at CreekerZine.wordpress.com!
frequent updates are posted on LastStandForForests.com, a public-facing campaign of this diverse grassroots movement.
As Slingshot goes to the printing press, war is raging in Ukraine and the senseless loss of life is horrible and should stop. The same applies to the numerous other wars and armed conflicts around the world that aren’t being hyped in the media 24/7 because they don’t involve white people and aren’t happening in Europe or other prosperous areas — Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Columbia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kurdistan, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Palestine, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen…
It is awkward for Slingshot to publish articles about rapidly changing events, because our paper-based process is slow and there will be at least a month gap between when we write this and when you read it. Everything might change.
We can’t just oppose Putin the warmonger — we have to oppose Biden, Trump, Xi, Boris Johnson and all the rest of them. And even more we need to overturn the system of hierarchy and nation states that make war possible in the first place. Imaginary lines on the map empower tiny groups of old men to make war. None of the combatants or civilians being killed have anything against each other — they just want to live.
Governments are not going to stop war since fear of attack from across the border is the biggest justification for having nation states. People have to stop war — by refusing to participate, refusing to pay for them and refusing to go along with the whole hierarchical system.
Wars are used by crumbling empires like a short-term sugar high to delay their decay by pumping up nationalism. You can see this in Russia and NATO right now. The leaders want regular people to pick a side and wave the flag, but this does not help the Ukrainian or the Russian human beings who are being killed. We can refuse to play the ruler’s game because either way, the rulers end up winning and regular people end up paying the price.
NATO — built to fight the cold war which was itself absurd — lacked purpose after the Soviet Union collapsed. What better way to justify its own existence than needlessly escalating tension with Russia by expanding to nations from the old Soviet orbit — Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and placing rockets in Poland and Romania? We are now paying the price for Western capitalist encouragement of privatization of Russia’s economy after the USSR collapsed — which enriched oligarchs, encouraged authoritarian tendencies and failed to improve the lives of ordinary people. NATO supported borders, hierarchy and standing armies that celebrated the triumph over communism — and left a feeling of resentment and vulnerability in Russia. What a lost opportunity over the last 30 years to support human dignity and self-determination.
This is no excuse for Putin’s invasion — the war isn’t a simple result of NATO expansion or provocation. Now is not the time for activist-speak anti-imperialism that discounts the horror we can see with our own eyes unfolding in Ukraine just because the US has unleashed similar horror in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. We have to oppose war and state violence — rather than lecturing people who are having the correct emotional reaction to seeing people get blown up for no reason. Which isn’t to discount the racism inherent in the way Ukrainian refugees are treated with compassion while Syrian or Iraqi refugees are systematically excluded from the Western democracies we are told are so urgent to defend.
War always makes authoritarianism and nationalism worse for everyone. In Russia, the crackdown on dissent and independent media is intense. The war and sanctions in some twisted ways strengthen Putin’s power. The bravery of Russian anti-war protestors who are risking jail and worse is inspiring.
For us in the West, there’s a risk of idolizing Ukrainians and dehumanizing Russians. Dehumanizing other people is what starts wars and keeps them going. The US media is filled with barely disguised propaganda — tear-jerking stories that veer into emotional manipulation. Hero worship is also dehumanizing. Meanwhile, the Russian troops dying are also victims — they didn’t make this war. Their wives will be just as widowed, their children just as fatherless as the Ukrainians who are being killed. In the USA, the war is being used by both political parties to consolidate support and obedience. Dissidents everywhere unite!
Meanwhile, the arms merchants get rich like always. In the US, the biggest portion of taxes go for weapons when there’s so many other pressing needs. Next in line are police and prisons that perpetuate the same forms of violence, hierarchy and control internally. Police seek to dominate along racial and class lines — encouraging divisions between regular people so we cannot unite against our rulers.
The military system and nation states rely on a self-destructing industrial and economic system of oil, alienated labor, ecological destruction and wealth concentration. To stop war, we’re going to have to stop the everyday war on the earth. Unless the whole world changes quickly, climate change, wealth inequality and environmental collapse will cause more death and destruction world-wide than the Ukraine war.
Economic sanctions have mostly not included Russian oil and gas sales to Europe because keeping the oil flowing is more important than stopping the war to those in charge — oil is what keeps the whole rotten system going. You have to wonder if the leaders and nation states are really in control, or is it fossil fuels?
The war is being used to test and deploy slick internet thought-control techniques — both in the West and in Russia. It is easy to imagine fake news spread by elites fueling some form of civil war in the US. Now is the time to stop the slide towards violence by building bridges and connections between different kinds of regular people on a grassroots level. We need to talk to each other and seek understanding of what we have in common so we do not let those in power turn us against each other. Maybe seeing the televised horror in Ukraine war can help shift the narrative away from red state / blue state divisions and provide an opportunity to see that we’re all in this together. We should not go down the path of killing.
War is part of life for millions of people all over the world. Here in the US, we’re insulated from the terror and destruction, but many of our lives are filled with fear, incarceration, and scarcity. Elites tell us that this is peace, a fragile something to “protect” with war after war. But we know it’s not. People have been opposing war and authority since the dawn of time. The struggle for a new world is a long haul. We don’t have to stop caring or look away. Humans just want to love each other, be loved and live the best they can on the lush earth. Agitate, educate, organize, share power, know the truth, and get in touch with what’s real.
Despite the small southern town I worked in, I was lucky enough to work with a crew of young, hip, and savvy baristas at Starbucks. We served cops cold coffee, since we weren’t permitted to tell them to fuck off, took our “collective 10s” to smoke weed together in the parking lot, and we only got worse as the staffing crisis put more pressure on us. But these were the closers, and the gaggle of high schoolers we held under our wings. I was encouraged by a morning shift lead to report stores — especially independent stores — advertising anything that even smelled of Frappuccinos for copyright infringement. It happened to be one of his favorite past-times, he gleefully informed me. Good dog!
When I was first hired at Starbucks, I was told by another employee that she was happy to be working for a company that “really aligned with her values.” I did not think that was an unfair assessment, and I certainly didn’t know enough about her job history or her life to criticize her definition of “alignment.” From the outside, if you believe the hype, and no brave soul has tagged your local Starbies recently, it seems like a pretty solid company. They’re inclusive, diverse, eco-friendly! And they want to be your Third Place (home, work, Starbucks).
How does this measure up for the people who keep the stores running? It’s estimated that the average Starbucks worker would have to work for over 100 years to earn what the ex-CEO, Kevin Johnson, made in a single month. I recall reading company memos in October of 2021, congratulating us for the uptick in sales and promising that the company was doing everything in their power to get us to a $15/hr minimum wage within “the next couple years.” As if they were some mom-and-pop shop scraping the bottoms of their pockets to offer us pennies. Starbucks is supposed to be one of the better food service institutions to staff, but I had only recently had my wage increased to $12/hr, while the Jack in the Box down the street was advertising that impossible $15/hr starting pay.
How well can you trust those you work with? The seeds of dissent are already planted in your workplace. Long hours with short staff, telling the 15th oblivious crustomer that, yes, we are still out of Very Berry Acai Refresher Base. Your break room is claustrophobic, brightly lit, inhospitable to human life. Cigarette breaks just aren’t long enough. You can’t remember the last time you had two days off in a row, but somehow you’re still struggling to afford your basic necessities. If day shift and night shift are fighting over scraps, when do we stop to ask, “Why are we only being given scraps? Aren’t we supposed to be partners?”
“Partners” becoming partners — real, actual participants in the management of the company we’re staffing. If Starbucks presents a set of values, it’s about damn time they live up to them. The first ever Starbucks union was founded in Buffalo, NY in early December of 2021, after months of organizing. At the time of writing, there are over 140 Starbucks stores in the United States that have petitioned for union status. These stores are organizing through the Starbucks campaign of Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). These organizations trace a long and shared history through other, historic union groups- from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, to UNITE HERE, a combined labor effort of textile and hospitality workers. Now, a dedicated arm of Workers United fights for fair labor practices of Starbucks partners: Starbucks Workers United (SBWU).
Green-apron unionization efforts on the ground are being met with punitive action. SBWU filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Bureau (NLRB) about the Starbucks corporation cutting 2 to 15 hours a week from labor organizing partners’ schedules. For some, this puts them under the requirements for health and tuition benefits, for which partners must work at least 20 hours per week. On top of this, organizers are forced to find second jobs or terminate their employment at Starbucks to cover their cost of living. Workers who missed shifts during hospital stays are being punished months later, entirely unrelated to their organizing efforts (that’s sarcasm). The #SaveOurStarbucks tag on Twitter is boiling over with firsthand accounts from Starbucks partners facing intimidation and coercion from company higher-ups.
Clearly, the union wave has Starbucks management scared shitless. Disgraced Kevin Johnson stepped down, setting his last day as April 4th, and union-buster Howard Schultz, the company’s previous overlord, is stepping back into the ring. They’ve begun to contour their union-busting with a company FAQ, encouraging employees to vote “no” on union elections. The company tells several lies in their “informative” anti-union crusade. They threaten the loss of benefits for unionized locations (despite robbing partners of benefits and employment at this very moment in retaliation), insist that union partners will be unable to swap shifts or transfer stores, and encourages employees to report “annoying” pro-union coworkers to management. This is classic union-busting, depicting unions as entities that exist solely to collect their dues and drown out your individual voice.
Starbucks is far from the only company engaging in duplicitous PR campaigns and slimy anti-union action. Monopolies dominate our neighborhoods, and small business owners are not immune from gaming the same systems to bleed profits from their workers. Workers United is running, alongside the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) push, campaigns to protect the rights of Lush workers, and manufacturers for Canada Goose (a Canadian outerwear company). The Global Lush Union and Canada Goose Unions are similarly fighting for fair wages, benefit protections, and a voice in the directions of the companies that they carry on their backs.
The Starbucks website claimes that their first guiding principle in response to Covid-19 is “Prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners and customers,” which is funny, because back at my store in the eastern U.S., the manager willfully kept knowledge of Covid-positive workers a secret until two others on the night shift also tested positive. And then, for some reason, he sent the morning shift home, and forced anyone on night shift that was exposed to return to work as normal — even while their own Covid test results were pending. Sure, we had two paid sick leaves at the beginning of the pandemic — any following mandated isolations were to be unpaid leave — but this pandemic has been going on for over two years. Most of us, just in the course of working with the roiling public, have been exposed and required isolation leave more than twice. This is particularly true in states where you might find yourself the only person masked up in your local grocery store in the Fall of 2021 — well, you and the workers.
The process of sinking my teeth into this story has illuminated several blind spots in my prior union knowledge. My motivation sprung primarily from my piss-poor experience working for the ‘bucks during the pandemic — working hard, thankless hours during constant supply shortages, all while combating the perpetual schism between openers and closers. Even if we, exhausted, desperate, starving, had any clue about the illegality of managements’ decisions, we didn’t have a clue how to address it. And that benefited the management alone. When baristas quit, that just means the shift leads would work entire weeks without break. And we loved our store. You can’t pour that much sweat, tears, and, yes, blood, into a workplace without feeling some semblance of ownership. But the majority of my shift (since I was rarely a star of the morning shift) were young, either still in high school or nowhere near completion of a degree. Unions were a fantasy.
It seems an odd system to me that requires a workplace to opt-in to having their rights protected by a federal agency, but is there a better way to support ourselves and our peers today? I’m not qualified to say. I’m a loudmouthed, low-wage mercenary. I’ve scarcely lived in one place long enough to unionize, let alone see how that all shakes out. When a job starts to trouble me, I jump ship. It would be simple enough to wave it all away, but I’ve got comrades still working for the Siren. People I love. They are passionate, brilliant, creative, hilarious people, and I’ve seen them sucked dry by this company. For their sake, as always, I’ve got my focus trained on the SBWU socials. If the Worker’s United track record is to be believed, we might finally be witnessing the power of service workers leveraged properly during this economic crisis.
We don’t have to sacrifice our bodies and our lives to the meat grinder. No matter which way you play it, all things boil down to one fact: there are more of us than there are of them. I don’t want to go “back to normal.” I want to look in the face of this worldwide health crisis and ask, “How many people died for this economy?” Can any of us even afford a fucking place to live? How long before the government is trying to get us to reproduce faster, raise children we can’t afford, to “correct” the labor shortage? Idaho just tried to pass a law that would sentence parents to life in prison for seeking gender-affirming treatment. In February, historically black colleges were flooded with bomb threats. It’s hard not to see these disparate tragedies as points in a gigantic net, drawing closer. The leaders of our country, the wealth-owners and the policy makers in their pockets, want us tired, desperate, and scared. We need each other now more than ever.
I’ve got a new food service job out here in the Bay. I’m no longer working under the Siren, but the industry is the same. This new gig holds itself up as a hip and with-it sorta company, but a corp’s a corp. Let’s just say, this time, I’m thinking “unionize.”
The idea of free will and the incessant wanting to fully understand, define, and explain everything can be frustrating and exhausting, especially when we inevitably realize we cannot. I think free will is both a freeing and destructive idea. With free will comes expectations and disappointment, motivation and hopelessness, solace and pressure; it can invigorate you in one moment and overwhelm you in the next. It is the contradictory mindset of our society.
We often try to ignore the arbitrary nature of life, how the environment we are born into and our surroundings have such an overwhelming impact on and control over our lives. The way in which we view economic poverty is in relation to where we live, how the society functions there, and what commodities are seen as necessary beyond fundamental needs such as food, water, and shelter. How each of us has arrived at this present moment in this specific way is a reflection of our environment which we are arbitrarily placed into or find through random causation – the butterfly effect in action.
The contradiction lies in that the capitalist society we live in wants us to believe we have the free will to overcome our environment through hard labor and dedication to being a cog in the machine, yet it discourages the belief in the level of free will to transcend the system itself and not play by its rules. At what cost do people attempt to overcome their environments through the current economic system? Resources are not infinite and constant economic growth is not sustainable. Our society conditions us to believe that we can continue to climb up the never-ending ladder of “success” or unsustainable “progress” (on account of our free will to work, study, seek monetary goals…), yet it also wants us to rest our entire lives on the imagined existence of this ladder and think it inconceivable to stop climbing or even step off it altogether. This, coupled with overwhelming individualism, makes the demand for change seem impossible.
We think that since we personally cannot do anything to challenge the systems at hand, we may as well participate since there seems to be no other choice. Solidarity in numbers is forgotten. Revolt and rebellion on a powerful scale are portrayed as virtually inconceivable. How do we make change in a society so complicit and caught up in the individualistic pursuit of “freedom”? A society that has been so desensitized to the contradictions of capitalism, that it seems nothing will move them to demand change.
The overwhelming system and the conflict between the desire for free will and its experienced absence produces a numbing effect. We know the system is wrong, but in an effort to rally a population against capitalism’s exploitations, we desensitize that population to it out of the sheer perceived impossibility. We tell ourselves that we individually cannot make much change, it’s the big corporations’ fault. Yet, the system is so complex and bureaucratic that the outside entity to blame seems faceless. It resides in the minds of our society, we are socialized into it and we must re-socialize ourselves out of it. I don’t believe in blaming the consumers of this systemic capitalist ideology, but there should be an effort to make our collective consciousness transcend its privileged hopelessness and be willing to act against the systems and institutions at hand.
Radical thought is often supplemented with anger (at the current economic, political, and societal situation), and that anger is justified. It is an emotion that naturally arises out of frustration with the current state, but it should not be uncontrolled. Overwhelming anger is unsustainable, it is the reason why so many organizers experience burn-out, and the activist scene has such a high turnover rate. Anger at the system is most effective when collectively expressed through organized mass action rather than contained within the individual. While anger can be a powerful motivator, an even stronger and lasting one is hope.
We can better sustain contentedness if we simultaneously work towards improving our situation and not letting the current state of it mentally drain us or put us in a state of despair. Not through conformism, but rather an avoidance of individual emotional turmoil that merely wears us out. Best not to fixate or get too overwhelmed and mentally exhausted by the system. Instead we can have a calm and collected, yet headstrong attitude. Action is most effective not within the individual but through the collective.
I think we individually experience strong desires to feel a sense of free will, or at least the thrill of escaping from the monotony of daily life. It’s why spontaneity is so intoxicating. We crave that feeling of control over our lives and attempt to gain some by breaking away from the schedules and deadlines that both govern and alienate us from our time. Even the decisions we so defiantly make to deviate from the norms of our society or upbringing can be interpreted as essentially just a negation of the norm, informed by this norm, and not truly a decision we make ourselves. But perhaps this idea of free will presupposes the notion of “the self” which we tend to hold on to in our individualized society (an inherently contradictory term). We want to believe we have free will because of this learned idea that we are separate from our community. Perhaps the important question isn’t if we truly have personal free will or not, since we do not actually live individually. We know we are a reflection of our environment and that we are socialized from birth, but we can also exercise some form of self-determinism through decisions about what kinds of people we surround ourselves with and the community that we create. By becoming so preoccupied with ourselves as individuals, we miss out on the beauty of community organizing, discussion, and even some commiseration that can reinvigorate you in times of hopelessness. So go out, create your community, join radical spaces around you, and be vocal about your ideas with friends. It is only through community that we can make change in our society and environment, and forming our community is something that we can influence.
I have learned so much in the three years I have worked as a wildland firefighter. It’s hard to remember what life was like before the experience of walking through freshly scorched forests and neighborhoods, before the camaraderie and hardship of crew life and dynamics. One summer I was waitressing, and the next I was hiking into the mountains in a line of 19 other people with a chainsaw on my shoulder, 12 plastic water bottles and a bag of cheap snacks and candy. Getting into fire was the best decision I have made so far, and not because I believe in the heroism of the American wildland firefighter. Quite the contrary, for being in the belly of the beast of the fire suppression world has shown me just how backwards it all is. Firefighting took me in as a broke 20 something looking for a paycheck and adventure, and spit me out as a fire lighting, drip torch loving devoted pyro. I am so inspired by the incredible people and communities I have met, the diverse perspectives, knowledge and experiences everyone brings, the learning and unlearning as we work to bring land stewardship and safe, prescribed fire back into the people’s hands.
Writing about an element so vast, dynamic and powerful, that involves people’s livelihoods, sense of security, and culture is challenging. To orient you, the West Coast is a landscape shaped by fire. So many of the bioregions that are cherished here, and the plants and animals that exist within those environments have adapted to thrive with recurring mixed severity fires. These flames crept through the underbrush, recycling dead and downed debris, restoring nitrogen to the soil. The cones of pine trees open in reaction to the heat, releasing their seeds for germination. Low intensity fires clear out competing conifer saplings in the beautiful oak savannas, allowing for the lupine and camas to thrive below.
I remember as a kid learning about the camas lily of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a native plant to the area that thrives in meadows and oak savannas. The camas lily has an edible bulb (when prepared correctly) and beautiful bright purple flowers that bloom in spring, when the meadows are still marshy and full of the season’s rainfall. This was the first plant that I learned thrives with, and even depends on fire as a part of its lifecycle. This plant offered a healing perspective; that fire is more than the dangerous and demonized version we see fire ‘fighters’ going to war with on TV; that fire can do good. These reflections are just the tip of the iceberg of unpacking, criticizing and digesting the corrupted version of fire that has been created here in just the past 120 years.
100 plus years of fire suppression and abusive resource extraction has put thousands of these fire-dependent species at risk of extinction, as well as contributed to the high-intensity mega fires that we see today. To learn about fire and the history of humans’ relationship to fire is an intrinsic part of telling the true story of how we came to be here in this moment of socio and environmental crisis. Our recent history of fire suppression is directly connected to the genocide and attempted cultural erasure performed by white American colonists against the Indigenous peoples of North “America”. Through time immemorial, Indigenous peoples have stewarded these landscapes in a relationship that fosters ecological abundance and biological diversity. The decline of native plant and animal species, watershed health, and the increase of fatal ‘mega-fires’ cannot be separated from the criminalization of native tribal groups’ burning practices.
If you live on the West Coast, and California specifically, you will know how dry the last couple months of winter have been. January and February of 2022 were the driest ever recorded in California. Every time I have participated in a prescribed burn this year I have felt that heat. On February 17th, I arrived at a prescribed burn curated by the Good Fire Alliance, A Public Burn Association based out of Sonoma County. This burn was held on traditional Kashia Pomo Land, and is home to a mosaic of both old growth redwood and open meadows. Today the land is owned by Rip Goelet, and is now named ‘Rip’s Redwoods’.
It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s February in Sonoma County. As a new Firefighter Type 1 Trainee, I was excited to be handed a Kestrel Weather Meter, a Brick Radio and a Fire Weather Observation Chart. These tools plus the weather charts in the IRPG (Incident Response Pocket Guide) are what you need to track and communicate weather to the crew working on the ground. To sum it up, you collect the temperature and relative humidity, and plug these numbers into a chart to find the “Probability of Ignition”. The “Probability of Ignition” is a 1-100% calculation to see how dry the fuels (plants n’ such) are and how likely it is for them to blow up and burn with the addition of just a little fire. The charts you plug these numbers into calculate how dry our dear dead and downed logs and fine fuels are, based on months; for months are associated with a relative percentage of precipitation. The sweet wet fuels of February don’t exist this year, so the weather I was reading simply didn’t match the fire behavior I was seeing, which was hot, flashy and boisterous. It wasn’t because I was doing my calculations wrong, it was simply because I was using a chart meant for February, when we were dealing with May June and July dry fuels. Realizing that the effects of climate change made the IRPG charts outdated, at least on this particularly dry day, made my stomach churn.
While deeply concerning, the drying trend throughout the West Coast makes prescribed burns feel even more crucial. Knowing that there are more devastating wildfire seasons ahead, there is so much work to do during the burn windows throughout fall, winter and spring. While we are burning to reduce the amount of fuel that feeds severe fires, we are taking care of the land, and making people and communities more safe. Although eerily dry, burn days like those with the Good Fire Alliance at Rips Redwoods feel like a kind of solace. Seeing fire burn away the decades of built up duff and brush, clearing the way for long dormant seeds to bloom, for critters that have been waiting generations to enjoy the tender shoots and abundance that follows a low to mid severity fire is joyful.
Working with fire means holding a lot of feelings in one basket. The existential reality that our environments are changing rapidly, shriveling under late capitalism and resource extraction. There’s so much to dismantle and *burn*, and I know that weighs heavy on our hearts and minds. We are tired and isolated, everyone deserves to thrive and be able to take care of our loved ones. That is what we are fighting for and it’s exhausting. Fire as a metaphor makes it all sound so easy, if only we could just burn it all and embrace the fresh green shoots of life after exploitative oppression; and then there’s the beauty of seeing people with a drip torch in their hand for the first time. The quick progression of someone’s fear of fire becoming curiosity becomes a conversation becoming a direct exchange between human and the drip torch and the land, seeing the lines of fire meet and embrace each other, the trust in your fellow fire lighting companions. The joy that communities are finally trusting this element that innately belongs. I heard an inspirational and respected fire practitioner say something along the lines of “People always say that it is a liability to burn, we must realize that it is more of a liability to suppress fire than it is to let it burn”, Fire will be there no matter what, it’s just a matter of if we want to intentionally invite fire or let fire come uninvited.
While my heart and ideologies are against firefighting as we know it, I will be out in the summer heat with my fellow firefighters this coming season. This is because I have found few other avenues that provide financial security while also providing opportunities to gain experience and skill sets. I know myself and so many others that have found themselves working in the woods are looking for an alternative to firefighting as we know it. Every fire season I find myself having conversations with fellow fire ‘fighters’ that want to apply their passion, interest or experience to something they believe in. More and more people on ‘the line’ are seeing through the facade of the militarized, impersonal and resource extraction oriented framework that we are forced to work in. We are told over and over that “this is just how it is, get used to it or get out”. My fellow fire comrades and I know that something else is possible. We know that fire is a crucial aspect of the longevity and survival of plants and ecosystems of the regions we love so much; inherently intertwined with our struggle for liberation and abolition.
So many people are reflecting, re-evaluating and changing their ideas of, and relationship to fire. I love fire because it is inherently intergenerational, there is a place for everyone to get involved, big and small. From finding a local PBA (Prescribed Burn Association) to work with, reading the Karuk Tribe Climate Change Project ‘Fire Works!’ section, learning about your local fire ecology and history — FUSEE (Firefighters United for Safety Ethics and Ecology), which you can find at fusee.org is a great resource for learning about the paradigm shift of fire, in both advocating for prescribed burning as well as the demilitarization of fire suppression. It is time to think critically, ask questions and foster community resilience by safely bringing fire back to the land where it belongs.
Slingshotis an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.
Life seems too fast to make our newspaper these days. Capitalist economies are careening from one crisis to another, yet remain dynamic and nimble in finding new things to exploit. For those of us working, it’s no surprise the bosses are having a hard time hiring. As rents endlessly rise and the bosses scramble for workers, some of us are doubly pressured to work more hours or travel further to get to the Long Haul — taking away time to work on projects like this and draining our energy. Others are making a cheaper but more precarious life on the streets or in cars. Yet, most of the problems we’re talking about are the same ones that appeared in the pages of Slingshot decades ago. Delightfully, the solutions are within reach — if only more would take up the tools (and smash the bosses’).
The only way we’re gonna do any of this is together. We need real community spaces, controlled by ordinary fucking people rather than governments, foundations, non-profit executives, or wanna-bes. We need the same kinds of media, farms, technology, and housing.
Capitalism creates fake “perfect spaces” like retail stores and social media websites, where everything is clean and every day looks the same. Social media claims to be about self-expression, but the only possibility is to put these words or those words into their endless grid. There’s no graffiti, no illicit street vendors, no riots. And behind the scenes, thousands of low-wage workers in the global South manually scrub traumatic content from the platforms.
So Slingshot is a mess. We print our article drafts on a 20-year-old printer that puts a big streak down the middle. Sometimes an article is only read by two people before making it in the paper. Our numbers dwindle as meetings drag on into the night. And then suddenly the loft fills with a flood of artists until there’s no table space to work once the boring meeting is over.
Anyone who walks into the art party is invited to design a page or draw a graphic. Being made a participant instead of a consumer flips the script. It can take longer this way — but people want to be here. A big contrast to being a cog at a job you hate or a mindless consumer of media
We’re making the paper ourselves, in our infoshop, with stolen sharpies and landfill-bound snacks. It is a rush — seeing art come out of thin air, being together until exhaustion sets in, struggling with sentences that don’t make sense.
Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers and distributors. Even if you feel you are not an essayist, illustrator, whistleblower you may know someone who is. If you send an article, please be open to editing. We’re a collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.
We are thinking about re-designing the Slingshot logo that has been used since 1988. Contact us if you think we should keep the existing one, or if you think it should change, please draw your suggestion and send it.
Thanks to the people who made this: Alex, Ben, Daya, eggplant, Fern, Gerald, Hannah, Hound, Jesse, Joey, Lola, Luca, Mimi, Miriam, Nana, rachelle, Robin, Ryan, Seandunn, Sylvia, & all the authors and artists!
Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting
Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on August 21, 2022 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)
Article Deadline & Next Issue Date
Submit your articles for issue 136 by September 24, 2022 at 3 pm.
Volume 1, Number 135, Circulation 22,000
Printed March 25, 2022
A publication of Long Haul
Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705
Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703
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Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.
Slingshot free stuff
We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $4 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshotcollective.org