This thesis explores the historical culture of the radical environmentalist movement Earth First!. Earth First! was founded in 1980, in the United States by a group of men, most with a conservationist background, to defend wilderness. Earth First! differs from most other environmentalist and conservationist groups with their refusal to compromise, but also due to their conceptions of history. The movement’s narratives of past, present and future are examined by analysing Earth First!’s magazine, Earth First! Journal, from 1980 until 2006. In particular the focus lies on the evolution of these narratives throughout three distinct periods. During the first period, from 1980 until 1987, Earth First! is founded and starts constructing a conception of history. It begins with clearly separating wild nature and modern civilisation geographically. During the period from 1987 until 1995 various narratives within the movement are competing with each other, with a particular contrast between those who view humanity as inevitably becoming out of tune with nature and those that believe it is only current western society that is harmful to the environment. Both have in common a belief that modern society is heading towards a collapse. In the final period from 1995 until 2006, (eco)terrorism plays a big role in how Earth First! is perceived by the public and consequently this influences their conception of history as mass support becomes harder due to being portrayed as terrorists. In this period a future with two possible collapses crystallises. An industrial-civilisational collapse and an ecological collapse. It becomes the aim of Earth First! to make the former occur in order to prevent the latter.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Historical culture, environmentalism, ecoterrorism, Earth First, direct action, Earth Liberation Front, apocalypticism, millenarianism, conservationism
Thesis Advisor R. J. Adriaansen
Persistent URL
Series Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society
T. van Leth. (2019, June 26). Environmentalists Heading for the Collapse: The Evolution of Earth First!’s Narratives of Past, Present and Future. Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society. Retrieved from