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How green are Uncle Sam’s hands?
by Charlotte MARCHALANT

In America, various environmentalists are claiming to be the staunchest patriots, but they don’t seem to be speaking the same language.

The Oakland-based ecological foundation Circle of Life has launched a new campaign to dispel all the prejudices, misconceptions and what it sees as downright lies equated with green activism and dissent in general. Its slogan is "Activism is Patriotism". Julia Butterfly Hill, the grassroots icon behind the Circle of Life's motto explains that nowadays speaking out will often have you accused of being unpatriotic or even a terrorist - two words that have sometimes come to mean the same thing in post 9/11, fear-riddled America. Civil disobedience is definitely frowned upon these days.

Among these environmentalists' most outspoken opponents are people such as Ron Arnold. As the executive vice president of the Center for the Defence of Free Trade, he fights against what he construes as a threat to individual liberties, property rights and limited government. His definition of the word patriotism has more to do with not hindering free-enterprise than with the "love and devotion" for the homeland Hill & Co profess. Arnold bears a particular grudge to Miss Hill as she achieved fame with a 2 year-long sit-in atop a redwood to keep it from being logged by Pacific Lumber, one of the CDFT's main financial backers.

Both kinds of activists are convinced to be doing the right thing to defend and re-enforce American values. Indeed, more than a conflict centered on environment, it's a clash between two antagonist Americas. One of thriving capitalism with strong connections in the White House as opposed to one of idealistic individuals who believe in their power to change the world against the odds. America has got "a long tradition of civil disobedience" recalls Hill, a tradition may be best embodied by Martin Luther King Jr. In his time, he faced the same charges that are brought against his successors some 50 years later. However today not many would dare question what he did for America. The definition of what constitutes an American patriot is not fixed.

Sources :
- Ron Arnold's publications include: EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature, the World of the Unabomber (1997) in which he argues that eco-terrorism includes all crimes committed in the name of nature, including acts of non violent civil disobedience.

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