February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (DVD)

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DVD cover of man on a cliff overlooking a forestIf a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. DVD. 85 min. Prod. by Marshall Curry Prods. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2011. ISBN 1-93777-21-9. $295.
Gr 10 Up–This fact-filled program utilizes archival footage, interviews, and commentary to relate the story of one man’s involvement in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an organization described by law enforcement as a domestic terror organization. It traces the evolution of Daniel McGowan from city resident to environmental activist, chronicling his involvement in property destruction as a member of the ELF and his arrest and current incarceration in a federal prison in Illinois. In a low-key voice, the male narrator reviews the history of environmental protest led by Earth First and its various monkey-wrenching activities. More radical elements of the group split-off to form the Earth Liberation Front, a loose collection of anonymous members who allegedly burned timber company offices, SUV dealerships, and a ski lodge in Vail, Colorado. Daniel McGowan was arrested in December 2005 and charged as a domestic terrorist. The script of this documentary is unbiased. Interviews with ELF activists, law enforcement officers, government agents, and citizens impacted by ELF are presented. Open-ended questions are posed, such as what is terrorism and isn’t big business responsible for oil spills and mountaintop removal mining?  The subject matter, off-color language, and slow pace of the program make it most useful for upper grades. Classes in journalism, political science, and current events can utilize this program as well as literature classes reading Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang.–Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel