The following account of some Rainforest Information Centre history is from The Transnational Activist: Transformations and Comparisons from the Anglo-World since the Nineteenth Century, edited by Stefan Berger and Sean Scalmer, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2017.



From the Local to the Global and Back Again: The Rainforest Information Centre and Transnational Environmental Activism in the 1980s

Iain McIntyre

By 1982 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation esti- mated that almost half the world’s rainforests had disappeared during the previous three decades, with some countries such as Bangladesh, Haiti, and India losing almost all their reserves.1 Although international scien- tific bodies had identified the expanding threats facing tropical forests in the early 1970s, a decade later activist campaigns concerning the prob- lem remained small and isolated. A remarkable shift occurred thereafter: by 1989 a number of campaigns were being mounted by communities

1 Chris Park, Tropical Rainforests, London: Routledge, 1992, pp. 33–34.


I. McIntyre (*)

University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia e- mail:

© The Author(s) 2018

S. Berger and S. Scalmer (eds.), The Transnational Activist, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements,


facing deforestation and supported by solidarity groups in the US, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere.2

Pressure arising from these efforts began to show results by the mid-

1980s, with multilateral bodies such as the World Bank and the newly formed International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) acknowl- edging, although by many activists’ standards not effectively addressing, environmental concerns.3 Campaigning also led to attempts to regulate logging via major summits such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and development (UNCEd) in 1992 and certification by the Forest Stewardship Council. Further to this the rainforest movement, along with campaigns concerning ozone depletion and climate change, has been widely credited with making the environment a major global issue during the 1990s.4

In part the formation of a global rainforest network came as a response to grievances generated during the 1980s by the expansion of logging into areas and communities previously unaffected, amidst an esti- mated 90% increase in clearing, which removed or significantly damaged roughly 200,000 square kilometres of tropical forest per year.5 The vis- ibility of such issues, and the increasingly transnational response to them, also involved the concerted efforts of an initially small core of activists.

Much of the history of the 1980s international rainforest movement remains unwritten. A full investigation is beyond the scope of this chap- ter, but the chapter focusses on the development of a key participant, Australia’s Rainforest Information Centre (RIC), from 1981 to 1989. In examining the critical international role of RIC in disseminating informa- tion, creating networks, and stimulating campaigns, it first provides a his- tory of the group’s activities and details its approach to global activism. RIC’s activist practice and transnational orientation is then linked to its roots in a rural, alternative community involved in local forest defence.

  1. Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, ‘Environmental Activism,’ in Bruce Mazlish and Akira Iriye, eds., Global History Reader, London: Routledge, 2008, pp. 135–136.

  2. F. Gale, ‘Global democratic Corporatism: Earth Governance Beyond States,’ in Oceanic Conference on International Studies, Brisbane: University of Queensland, 2008, pp. 10–12.

  3. Keck and Sikkink, ‘Environmental Activism,’ pp. 136–140; A. Juniper, ‘Rainforest Campaigning,’ in Tropical Rainforest, F.B. Goldsmith, ed., London: Chapman & Hall, 1998, pp. 367–385.

5 Park, Tropical Rainforests, pp. 35, 127.

The chapter next focusses on how RIC’s early work with campaigners in the Solomon Islands and the US further shaped its political approach and involved it in transnational diffusion processes. In providing a his- tory and analysis of a group of ‘rooted’ and ‘social’ ‘cosmopolitans’ who emerged from the periphery of Australian society and the Anglosphere, this chapter offers broader insights into the nature of transnational activ- ism and the functioning of diffusion.

a brief HiStory of tHe rainforeSt information centre during tHe 1980S

The Rainforest Information Centre (RIC) was founded by John Seed in northern New South Wales (NSW) during 1981. It was initially a one- person operation that engaged in mail-based correspondence to gather support for Australian campaigns and encourage networking among those working on rainforest issues overseas.6

In 1982 Seed and fellow activist Andy Frame travelled to the Solomon Islands where they committed to supporting activists opposed to clear- felling in their communities.7 Along with this early solidarity work, RIC members participated in Australian environmental blockades and cam- paigns in the states of NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland.8 With information flow increasing, Seed decided to compile selections of the correspondence he had received into the first issue of the World Rainforest Report (WRR) in 1984. Published on a roughly quarterly basis, the 47 issues of WRR combined news and articles from campaigners and scien- tists around the world, with analysis concerning economics and science, and occasional pieces on deep Ecology and spirituality. The publication became a key information node, with prominent ecologist Paul Ehrlich stating in 1987 that, “I think a lot of scientists like me depend on the World Rainforest Report for information on what’s happening. [It] has become a sort of central agency in keeping people up to date.”9

  1. John Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015; dailan Pugh, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

  2. ‘Solomon Islands,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 2, 1984, p. 4.

  3. Patrick Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015.

  4. Hattie Clark, ‘If a Tree Falls, John Seed Hears It,’ in Christian Science Monitor, 13 August 1987, available [online]: iew/1034959490?accountid=12372 [Access date 22 May 2015].

    By 1984 RIC, Friends of the Earth-International (FOE-I), and the US-based Tropical Forest Working Group were independently proposing formation of an international network of rainforest groups.10 None of these involved concrete proposals, and although various official group- ings, such as the World Rainforest Movement, were founded in the next few years, a formal coalition encapsulating and coordinating the major- ity of activist groups never fully emerged. Nevertheless, collaboration increased as campaign groups spread in countries facing deforestation as well as those importing timber from them. RIC encouraged this through its publications and correspondence as well as a marked increase in tours of India, Japan, Papua New Guinea (PNG), US, UK, Ecuador, Fiji, and other countries from 1985 onwards.11

    In 1984 and 1985, FOE-UK ran a high-profile consumer cam- paign in Britain concerning the importation and sale of tropical timber sourced from endangered forests. The success of this campaign led to an increased focus on the issue internationally. In Australia, RIC engaged in research regarding Australian companies and consumption and by 1987 had a national campaign underway that led to the formation of Rainforest Action Groups (RAGs) in a number of cities. Although state and federal governments were reluctant to respond with regulation, actions and protests carried out by these activists received widespread media coverage and led to union bans being placed on the handling and use of imported rainforest timber.12

    RIC began using the Internet in 1985, first accessing it via San Francisco’s Econet hub. Ian Peter, who became a full-time RIC activ- ist in the same year, was a keen proponent of computer technologies. In 1987 he had a core role in gaining UN funding for SE Asian and Pacific conservation groups to set up databases and email connections across the region as well as link them with those in the US and Europe. The regional links largely failed to eventuate, for reasons of differences in resources and skills among the various countries and activist groups as well as the technological limits of the era. Nevertheless, the increasing

  5. ‘Selections from Correspondence,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 2, 1984, p. 11.

  6. ‘Solomon Islands, Japan, India, Thailand,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 4, 1985, pp. 13–14; ‘Fijian Forests Threatened,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 5, 1986, pp. 5–6.

  7. ‘Ban on Plywood,’ Canberra Times, 17 October 1989, p. 4; Stuart McQuire, ‘Nonviolent Action and Television News: The Case of the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group, 1989–91,’ Masters, Monash University, 1991, pp. 20–28.

    use of bulletin boards and email from this time onwards, particularly amongst those in developed economies, rapidly scaled up activists’ abili- ties to be notified of campaign developments and to respond to them.13

    direct personal contact with activists and communities overseas, as well as exposure to critiques of existing global economics, meant that dur- ing the mid-1980s RIC increasingly focused on the role of multi-lateral banking institutions and Third World debt in rainforest destruction. Information regarding these issues was disseminated, and RIC protested events held by the World Bank and other bodies in Australia. It also initi- ated a coalition, largely run by full-time RIC activist Patrick Anderson, which successfully lobbied for a government inquiry into foreign aid in 1987. Following this event the Australian government changed a number of its policies and began funding grassroots projects based on economic and ecological sustainability, including some auspiced by RIC in PNG, Solomon Islands, India, and Ecuador.14

    Coordinated protests targeting the World Bank, Malaysian gov- ernment, and others were held in a number of countries and parts of Australia between 1987 and 1989. This activity, facilitated by increasing coordination and flows of information via the Internet and the operation of RAGs across Australia, brought new full-time activists into RIC with the result that long-standing members were able to move on to other projects and organisations. RIC produced WRR until 2001 and contin- ues its involvement in campaigning and networking to the present.15

    tHe LocaL rootS of ric’S tranSnationaL activiSm

    della Porta and Marchetti define ‘transnational activism’ as “mobiliza- tion around collective claims that are (a) related to transnational/global issues, (b) formulated by actors located in more than one country, and

  8. Ian Peter, ‘The Pegasus Story,’ in Greg Googin, ed., Virtual Nation: The Internet in Australia, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2004, pp. 44–47; ‘Banjarmasin Conference,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 8, 1987, pp. 22–23.

14 Recreation and the Arts Senate Standing Committee on Environment, ‘Environmental Impact of development Assistance,’ Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1989, pp. v–xvii; John Seed and Patrick Anderson, ‘Some Aid/Watch History,’ available [online]: [Access date 23 May 2015].

  1. Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015; ‘The RIC Waltz,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 12, 1989, p. 12.

    (c) addressing more than one national government and/or international governmental organization or another international actor.”16 Analyses concerning the widely acknowledged rise in transnational activism in recent decades tended to focus on two broad sets of factors. Some have argued that the trend, particularly since the 1990s, has been pri- marily driven by the increasingly global nature of society. Shifts in indi- vidual cultural and political outlooks, communications technology, and opportunities for activism have been cited as primary facilitating factors. New grievances and mobilising targets have also been identified as aris- ing from the increasing dominance of neo-liberal ‘globalisation’ and its institutions.17

    A second approach disputes the basis of transnational activism as a response to and part of an emerging ‘borderless’ society, arguing that it is primarily an outcome of national movements extending their efforts and claims to the international arena. Transnational networks and organ- isations are said to be built on the basis of local needs, with diffusion pri- marily occurring through local and national movement processes.18

    Emphasising the local and global dimensions of their formation and work, Tarrow characterises transnational activists as a subset of ‘rooted cosmopolitans,’ that is, those individuals who whilst engaging in physi- cal and mental global transactions remain “linked to place, to the social networks that inhabit that space, and to the resources, experiences, and

  2. donatella della Porta and Raffaele Marchetti, ‘Transnational Activisms and the Global Justice Movement,’ in Gerald delanty and Stephen Turner, eds., Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory, Oxon: Routledge, 2011, p. 428.

  3. Gale, ‘Global democratic Corporatism: Earth Governance Beyond States,’ pp. 1–7; Hermann Maiba, ‘Grassroots Transnational Social Movement Activism: The Case of Peoples’ Global Action,’ Sociological Focus, vol. 38, no. 1, 2005, pp. 44–50; Selina Gallo- Cruz, ‘Organizing Global Nonviolence: The Growth and Spread of Nonviolent INGOS, 1948–2003,’ in Sharon Erickson Nepstad and Lester R. Kurtz, eds., Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance, Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing, 2012, pp. 218–219.

18 John d. McCarthy and Erik Johnson, ‘The Sequencing of Transnational and National Social Movement Mobilization: The Organizational Mobilization of the Global and U.S. Environmental Movements,’ Paper presented at the Transnational Processes and Social Movements conference, Bellagio, Italy, 2003, pp. 3–5, 31–32; donatella della Porta and Hanspeter Kriesi, ‘Introduction,’ in donatella della Porta, Hanspeter Kriesi, and dieter Rucht, eds., Social Movements in a Globalizing World, Hampshire: Macmillan Press, 1999, pp. 11–21.

opportunities that place provides them with.”19 Flowing from this he contends that few transnational activists begin their career at the global level because the concerns and practices of most are initially spawned by, and mediated through, domestic concerns and conditions.20

Further, the radical edge of the movements that have arisen in response to neo-liberal globalisation since the late 1990s has seen some activists, as well as academics, claim that they are practicing a “new way of doing politics.”21 Variously referred to as ‘alter-activism,’ ‘alternative globalisation,’ and ‘alter-globalism,’ this approach is defined by Juris and Pleyers as involving “an emphasis on lived experience and process; a commitment to horizontal, networked organisation; creative direct action; the use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs); and the organisation of physical spaces and action camps as labo- ratories for developing alternative values and practices.”22 This outlook is said to be further defined by its espousal of the creation and use of power from the ‘bottom up’ of society rather than by political and economic elites; the promotion of political principles based on grassroots and localised participation, autonomy, and solidarity; critiques of neo-liberal global institutions; and a particular focus on the needs and views of those based in local communities as well as the ‘Global South.’23

The practice of RIC in the 1980s, and since, has been characterised by anti-professionalism, a preference for interested parties to start their own campaigns rather than to build a core organisation, and a decen- tralised, networked style of collaboration. Furthermore, from its early years onwards the group developed core ideas and tactics during for- est blockades and protest camps; lent support to economic critiques

  1. Sidney Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 42.

  2. Ibid., p. 43.

  3. Jeffrey Juris, ‘A New Way of doing Politics? Global Justice Movements and the Cultural Logic of Networking,’ Recherches Sociologiques et Anthropologiques, vol. 38, no. 1, 2007, pp. 133, 140; Kevin Mcdonald, Global Movements: Action and Culture, Malden, Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 3–4.

  4. Jeffrey Juris and Geoffrey Pleyers, ‘Alter-Activism: Emerging Cultures of Participation among Young Global Justice Activists,’ Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2009, p. 57.

  5. Raffaele Marchetti, ‘Mapping Alternative Models of Global Politics,’ International Studies Review, no. 11, 2009, pp. 144–147.

    of globalisation emanating from Third World NGOs and activists; pioneered the use of the Internet amongst political activists in Australia and elsewhere; and supported local community struggles while linking them to broader issues and movements via arguments concerning eco- logical and economic systems. These key qualities are analogous to those of ‘place-basedness,’ ‘participation,’ ‘autonomy,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘soli- darity,’ characteristics that della Porta and Marchetti consider the core of the global justice movement.24 RIC’s possession of these dimensions thereby challenges the novelty of alter-activism’s political approach.

    Various factors shaping the methods, formation, and activities of RIC are canvassed in the following sections. Analysis of these points chal- lenges the applicability of universal theories and establishes the impor- tance of placing networks and organisations in their own historical and geographic context. Also, although RIC’s work was shaped by changes in the global economy and technological opportunities for networking, its orientation towards transnational activism emerged primarily from direct and personal campaigning experiences of its members in a counter- cultural community located outside the population and political power centres of Australia and the wider world.

    tHe ric rootS in nortHern nSw foreSt camPaignS

    John Seed and other early members of RIC were part of the Northern NSW alternative ‘New Settler’ community. From the early 1970s onwards, as many as 1000 people moved to the region, located hundreds of kilometres from the nearest major population centres, in response to disenchantment “with the technocratic, economic, and political reali- ties of the city, and unease with the social divisiveness and environmental impact of modernity.”25 This influx into a previously conservative agri- cultural area experiencing economic and demographic decline led to the emergence of a distinctive set of lifestyles. These combined economic

  6. della Porta and Marchetti, ‘Transnational Activisms and the Global Justice Movement,’ pp. 431–432.

  7. Susan Ward and Kitty van Vuuren, ‘Belonging to the Rainbow Region: Place, Local Media, and the Construction of Civil and Moral Identities Strategic to Climate Change Adaptability,’ Environmental Communication, vol. 7, no. 1, 2013, p. 67.

    and cultural practices involving communal living, ‘New Age’ spirituality, self-sufficient agriculture, and environmentally sustainable technology.26

    In 1979 Australia’s first forest blockade took place at Terania Creek after five years of lobbying failed to protect the area. during a three-week protest residents associated with the Terania Native Forest Action Group (TNFAG) disrupted logging by blockading forestry workers and equip- ment with their bodies and vehicle. Some protesters also took unauthor- ised action in rendering felled timber unusable and spiking trees with nails. The blockade increased pressure on the state government to the point where it imposed a suspension of logging ahead of an official inquiry.27

    The participation of early RIC members in this successful blockade influenced their involvement in global activism and mediated their trans- national practice in a number of ways. The Terania Creek campaign, and those that followed, not only created a local cohort of campaigners who pursued their passion for ‘alternative lifestyles’ via activism, but also popularised, first within Australia and then later globally, environmental blockading as a repertoire of contention.28

    Some participants in the blockade had moved to the region because of an existing passion for nature. For others, such as Seed and RIC artist dalian Pugh, it was not until they camped in the rainforest for long peri- ods and witnessed its destruction that logging moved from an abstract issue to one in which they became fully immersed.29

    Beyond engendering an emotional and spiritual connection among activists, the campaign, for the first time in Australia, brought a national focus on rainforests as rare and endangered ecosystems. The need to provide scientific evidence for their claim that rainforests required pro- tection in their entirety subsequently involved TNFAG campaigners in broader environmental and academic networks. This involvement was largely facilitated by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) scientist Len Webb as he and Seed contacted

  8. Graham Irvine, ‘Creating Communities at the End of the Rainbow,’ in Helen Wilson, ed., Belonging in the Rainbow Region: Cultural Perspectives on the NSW North Coast, Lismore: Southern Cross University Press, 2003, pp. 63–82.

  9. Libby Connors and drew Hutton, A History of the Australian Environmental Movement, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 151–155.

  10. Vanessa Bible, ‘Aquarius Rising: Terania Creek and the Australian Forest Protest Movement,’ Honours, University of New England, 2010, pp. 54–58.

  11. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015; Pugh, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

    and successfully encouraged approximately 80 scientists from around the world to send letters to the NSW Premier.30

    This correspondence alerted activists who had previously been primar-

    ily interested in protecting one area to the fact that deforestation was happening globally. The emotional relationship of Seed and others to rainforests, and the increasing scientific knowledge regarding the inter- connectedness of global ecosystems, caused them to be alarmed. A lack of existing activism regarding the issue further spurred action. As Seed recalls:

    Our research during Terania Creek had shown us that the IUCN had iden- tified rainforests as a top conservation priority, but I could barely find any groups in the world who had them on their agenda. So I got dailan Pugh to draw up a letterhead that said Rainforest Information Centre. That’s all RIC was at the time, a letterhead, but with that I started writing to anyone I thought might be connected or interested.31

    Further research and correspondence informed RIC of the involvement of Australian companies in overseas logging operations and the importa- tion of tropical timber. Relating this to local forest campaigns Anderson states, “We realised our success in NSW wouldn’t be much of a victory if all it meant was that it displaced deforestation to places where people had fewer opportunities to stop it.”32

    According to Seed, at this point there were no specific goals or models of organisation involved beyond “a sense that given this was a global problem it would require people in lots of different places to take action.” Heavily involved in local campaigns, he had little time initially for networking. Nevertheless, from this initial correspondence, and the creation of an organisational title, an active campaigning group emerged as the 1980s continued. Informally organised, RIC would never include more than a handful of full-time activists, but a larger number of those living in the region contributed to its activities in other ways. The fol- lowing section turns to the nature of this support base and the way in which it encouraged and facilitated global activism.

  12. Rainforest Information Centre and Neville Wran, World Scientists Write to Premier Wran About Rainforests, Lismore: Rainforest Information Centre, 1984, pp. 1–12.

  13. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

32 Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015.

avaiLabiLity, orientation, and aPProacH towardS gLobaL activiSm

Various theorists have pointed to the tendency for global activists to be middle class, in terms of enjoying higher access to education and the rel- ative independence to organise work and other activities. Furthermore, although such imbalances began to be addressed in recent decades, transnational activism is said to be skewed towards the interests and par- ticipation of those in the West and North, as people from such countries generally experience less repression, are able to amass greater resources, and typically participate in international travel and communication more often.33

In being primarily Anglo-Australian, university educated, and raised in middle-class families, the majority of the RIC members and supporters in the 1980s fit this characterisation. Although the countercultural nature of the New Settler community meant that many within it eschewed the accumulation of income and capital and had minimal contact with the formal economy, it was nevertheless highly resourced in other ways. A number of those involved in local rainforest campaigns either possessed or developed expertise in public relations, research, law, and other pro- fessional areas, whilst the Terania Creek blockade opened connections to environmental and social justice organisations that would later provide RIC with support.34

The New Settlers’ focus on the arts provided another level of resources that could be drawn upon in terms of graphics, banners, and songs as well as fundraising. Similarly, the involvement of many in the region in agricultural projects meant that a pool of knowledge existed regarding reforestation and economically and environmentally sustain- able practices. Not only could this be shared with others as an alternative to industrial logging, but it had often been gleaned from practices devel- oped in other countries and communities. The accumulation of such information from non-Western sources, as well as various influences on

  1. Paola Grenier, ‘The New Pioneers: The People Behind Global Civil Society,’ Global Civil Society, no. 5, 2004, pp. 125–126; Maha Abdelrahman, ‘The Transnational and the Local: Egyptian Activists and Transnational Protest Networks,’ British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 38, no. 3, 2011, pp. 418–419.

  2. Ian Watson, Fighting over the Forests, North Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1990, pp. 83–87; Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015.

    the community’s dress, music, and culture, encouraged a transnational outlook and sense of respect and solidarity.35

    The lived experience of experimenting with and employing alterna-

    tives to Australia’s mainstream economic practices further shaped activ- ists’ attitude towards forests and their relationships to the communities that were connected to them. RIC, in marked contrast to the majority of Western environmental organisations of the time, recognised that forests were not human- and culture-free ‘wilderness,’ even while continuing to use the term because it resonated with the broader public. In considering why the group focussed on the views and needs of Indigenous and local communities, Pugh argues:

    Unlike many activists who were based in the city, it wasn’t alien for us to view the forest as a resource. We cut timber to build our houses, we grew food on land that had been previously cleared. We recognised that people lived in these environments and this pushed us to seek ways that we and others living in places under threat could combine using the forest on a small-scale with protecting and repairing it.36

    New Settler values concerning work and economics were also a major influence on the RIC organisational approach. These values encour- aged people to engage in unpaid activism or use government welfare payments as a subsidy for what was considered important, but rarely funded, labour. The frugal and communal nature of the region’s life- styles and the nature of Australia’s welfare system at the time allowed the majority of RIC members to meet their everyday financial costs, which were minimised through growing food and living in the organisation’s Lismore office/house. WRR stated that all the group’s fundraising went into projects and publications rather than wages, and members’ over- seas trips were either personally financed or funded by bodies such as the Australian Council of Churches. This attitude not only emphasised the level of RIC’s commitment to donors but also satisfied those supporters

  3. Ian Peter, Interviewed 8 June 2015; Ward and van Vuuren, ‘Belonging to the Rainbow Region: Place, Local Media, and the Construction of Civil and Moral Identities Strategic to Climate Change Adaptability,’ pp. 67–68.

  4. Pugh, Interviewed 8 June 2015; Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

and members who were critical of the increasing professionalisation of environmental activism.37

Reflecting its community’s political and social norms, as well as those

of New Social Movements in general,38 RIC was informally organised and used a fluid and loose form of consensus decision making. As Ian Peter recollects:

We had no constitution, no official policies, and no title holders, beyond what was eventually required to gain tax deductible status. Even then there weren’t really any fixed roles. If I was the director of RIC it was because I was the one signing a letter that day that needed that written at the bot- tom. If an issue or project arose that people felt passionate about, then that’s what they worked on and had a say in. Group projects like the maga- zine tended to get done by whoever was available or had particular skills.

From 1985 onwards John and I, and later Patrick, were the main ones who worked on RIC most days, but there was a wider circle who would drop by. There were plenty of discussions about ideas and practicalities, but few formal meetings. This tended to mean that John’s point of view or vision dominated at times, but he was often overseas, and even then I don’t think anyone had a problem with [his leadership] because he was the one who was most focused and determined.39

Anderson firmly ties RIC’s preference for participation in collabora- tive, decentralised, and autonomous networks, and its use of consensus

37 ‘Introduction,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 3, 1985, p. 1; Seed, Interviewed 5 June

2015; Peter, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

38 New Social Movements are said by scholars such as Touraine, Habermas, and Offe to differ from their predecessors’ focus on class, material outcomes, and state policies and power. It is claimed that in creating collective identities beyond class and parties they emphasize non-material ends and repudiate hierarchical forms of organisation. New Social Movements have been further characterised by their middle and cross-class membership, fluidity, pluralism, and networked nature. Although their novelty, boundaries, and origins have been disputed, the number of movements roughly fitting this description increased from the 1960s onwards as new forms and variants of feminism, environmentalism, etc. emerged. As such the New Settler community of Northern NSW matches the general char- acterisation. Hank Johnston, States and Social Movements, Political Sociology, Cambridge: Polity, 2011, pp. 89–93; Mcdonald, Global Movements: Action and Culture, pp. 24–26.

39 Peter, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

decision making, to its members’ experiences during NSW’s forest campaigns:

The group was diverse, but basically we were hippy anarchist environmen- talists who weren’t interested in creating a big bureaucracy that would provide us with paid jobs and put us on top. We were much more inter- ested in something spreading organically in a way that would make it easy for anyone to get involved. We’d seen the power of spontaneous action and participation through the different blockades that had happened in Australia and led to political change. They all had a level of organisation, but it was very minimal and people chose their own roles. These weren’t orchestrated affairs so they demonstrated the validity of a spontaneous rather than centralised model.40

Beyond providing an organisational orientation and material and social resources to RIC, the experimental and cultural orientation of the New Settler community further predisposed those within it towards support- ing, if not carrying out, global activism. Many had arrived in the region following periods of travel, with some merging future journeys with activism within Australia as part of the Nomadic Action Group, an infor- mal assemblage that initiated and participated in environmental and anti- nuclear blockades during the 1980s. For a smaller number, travel and political activity would be combined outside Australia as part of RIC.41

Presaging the broad societal change that has come to be known as

‘extended youth,’ a number of New Settlers, including some active within RIC, lacked the family or work commitments that precluded extended travel and involvement in unpaid activities. Of those who did have dependents, financial and parental responsibilities were commu- nally shared or swapped between parents for periods, and children often involved in protest activities.42

Although only a few of those initially involved in RIC and the Northern NSW forest campaigns had a strong background in political activism, many had participated in anti-war, anti-uranium, and other

40 Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015.

  1. Sophia Hoeben, Interviewed 12 April 2015; Peter, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

  2. Juris and Pleyers, ‘Alter-Activism: Emerging Cultures of Participation among Young Global Justice Activists,’ p. 71; Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015; Hoeben, Interviewed 12 April 2015; Peter, Interviewed 8 June 2015; Lisa Yeates, Interviewed 29 January 2015.

protests or, as Pugh states, were at base, “Idealistic enough to want to make a better world and do things differently.”43 Amongst the New Settler community, understandings of other cultures could often be inac- curate and romanticised, but there was widespread interest in them and a belief that they had an equivalence, if not superiority, to the values and norms of Anglo-Australian society. Existing connections to overseas communities via religious, friendship, family, and other networks also facilitated transnational networking directly, as when meditation teacher Vimala Thakar put RIC in contact with Gandhian activists who organ- ised an extensive tour of India in 1985.44

The influence of non-Western culture and spirituality and emerg- ing notions of ecology upon the New Settler community also meant that many did not share prevailing mainstream conceptions of nature. Most important amongst these was the idea that nature has a value beyond that as a resource for human use and that people are inextri- cably connected to and affected by the ecosystems in which they live. Environmental philosophers had already extended this belief into the philosophy of deep Ecology, and over time campaigners, including John Seed, would engage with and promote it, thereby deepening their com- mitment to activism and its global dimensions. Although this philosophy and others associated with social justice and environmental movements would influence RIC, it is important to note that its orientation towards transnational activism was one that primarily evolved. This is in contrast to those who adopted it through the embrace of refined and preexist- ing arguments or ideologies, such as Marxist-Leninism, that positioned a global outlook as a necessary part of effective political activity.45

43 Pugh, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

  1. Graham St. John, ‘Going Feral: Authentica on the Edge of Australian Culture,’

    Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 8, no. 2, 1997, pp. 169–180; Anderson,

    Interviewed 9 June 2015.

  2. Ward and van Vuuren, ‘Belonging to the Rainbow Region: Place, Local Media, and the Construction of Civil and Moral Identities Strategic to Climate Change Adaptability,’ pp. 67–68; Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

    diffuSion, brokerage, and ScaLe SHift

    Having detailed RIC’s formation, and located the roots of its orientation towards horizontally organised and community-focused transnational activ- ism in both the Terania Creek campaign and Northern NSW’s New Settler community, this chapter now turns to the group’s early connections to activists in the Solomon Islands and the US. These activities serve as exam- ples of how the RIC approach was shaped by transnational connections as well as how the group exchanged knowledge concerning science, tactics, and strategy, engaged in solidarity work, and assisted in building a global campaigning network. doing so draws on various ideas developed by Social Movement theorists such as ‘diffusion,’ ‘brokerage,’ and ‘scale shift.’ Michaelson defines diffusion as the “process by which any innova- tion (new idea, activity or technology) spreads through a population.”46 According to Soule, most models of diffusion developed regarding social movements include four elements: “a transmitter, an adopter, an inno- vation that is being diffused, and a channel along which the item may be transmitted.”47 In terms of protest, Kriesi et al. distinguish between two major types of innovation: the use of collective action and protest in general, and particular features of protest (goals, issues, organisational structures, action forms).48 For such innovations to be shared they must, in Tilly’s words, be “modular,” that is, “transferred easily from place to

    place, issue to issue, group to group.”49

    Theorists generally suggest that diffusion occurs along two sets of chan- nels: those that are direct/relational, such as face-to-face meetings, cor- respondence, and workshops, and those that are indirect/non-relational, such as media depictions. In cases where scale shift, “an alteration in the range of sites engaging in coordinated action”50 occurs, Tarrow,

  3. Alaina Michaelson, ‘The development of a Scientific Speciality of diffusion through Social Relations: The Case of Role Analysis,’ Social Networks, vol. 15, 1993, p. 217.

  4. Sarah Soule, ‘diffusion Processes within and across Movements’, in Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, ed. david Snow, Sarah Soule, and Hanspeter Kriesi, Oxford: Blackwell, 2004, p. 295.

  5. Hanspeter Kriesi, et al., New Social Movements in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995.

49 Charles Tilly, Regimes and Repertoires, Chicago: University of Chicago, 2006, p. 42.

  1. Charles Tilly, ‘Mechanisms in Political Processes,’ Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 4, 2001, p. 26.

    Tilly, and McAdam argue that a third process comes into play, that of “brokerage,” in which transfers depend on the deliberate and conscious linking of previously unconnected social actors. The nature of these channels, and the point at which movements use them, in turn affects the speed, influence, and adaptation of the ideas being diffused.51

    Activism and protest in different locales can be triggered by similar

    causes, but all require diffusion and brokerage to take place if they are to expand beyond localised incidents to become part of larger protest cycles.52 A criticism levelled at many Social Movement scholars’ treat- ment of diffusion is that they incorrectly suggest “objects of diffusion are easily transferable and translatable” and assume “receivers will sim- ply adopt an idea or practice when it is seen as appropriate or useful.”53 According to Roggeband, a more complex and nuanced approach, par- ticularly in relationship to cross-national diffusion, involves attention to three elements. The first she describes as the process of “reception,” how an idea or tactic is perceived or evaluated by potential receivers, and the second is that of “recontextualisation,” the way in which concepts are translated and transformed to suit local conditions, incorporate critiques, and respond to experience. Impacting upon these two processes is a third element: the social relationships and power positions that exist within diffusion networks.54

    Scalmer similarly argues for a focus on how local movements ‘trans- late’, rather than transmit, passively receive, and automatically apply, knowledge. He argues that this process, in which actors “learn about, connect with, and incorporate new forms of collective claim making… from one context to another” is a “historically variable, enculturated process, that rests upon sustained intellectual labor.”55 An in-depth treatment of these processes is outside the scope of this chapter, but the following analysis of RIC’s early relationships with overseas activists

  2. doug MacAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly, Dynamics of Contention, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 142, 157.

52 Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement : Social Movements and Contentious Politics, third edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 205–206.

53 Conny Roggeband, ‘Translators and Transformers: International Inspiration and Exchange in Social Movements,’ Social Movement Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, 2007, p. 246.

54 Ibid., pp. 247–249.

  1. Sean Scalmer, ‘Translating Contention: Culture, History, and the Circulation of Collective Action,’ Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, vol. 25, no. 4, 2000, p. 492.

    demonstrates that the diffusion practices involved were active, contex- tual, and reciprocal.

    ric and tHe SoLomon iSLandS

    RIC’s first direct and prolonged engagement with overseas rainforest campaigners began in late 1982. Rather than emerging from its nascent network of correspondents, contact came via the indirect channel of the media as well as the direct one of familial connections. As Seed recalls:

    At a party to celebrate the NSW government’s decision to spare the Nightcap forests there was a man who was a distant relative of someone who’d been involved in the campaign. He was a community leader named Job dudley Tausinga from North New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. He’d been in the only pub in Honiara which had a TV when a news broadcast showing the blockade in Australia had come on. His community were having trouble with loggers and this was the first time any of them had heard of anyone else protesting against, let alone putting an end to logging, so they sent him to Australia to get help. With the Nightcap cam- paign over I was free so I travelled there with Andy Frame [whose prop- erty had served as a base for blockading] and his brother in early 1983.56

    A dispute concerning royalties and overlogging had erupted during the early 1980s between members of the Koroga people and Levers Pacific Timbers (LPT), a subsidiary of the European-based multinational com- pany Unilever. On 27 March, 1982, a pre-dawn raid by as many as 100 local men caused approximately $1 million of damage to houses and equipment at LPT’s Enogae Bay logging camp. Although this brought an immediate end to felling, community activists were aware of the need to employ other strategies because LPT was pressuring the Minister for Provincial Affairs to honour agreements signed in 1979.57

  2. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015. As of 2016 telecommunications coverage is limited to roughly half the Solomon Islands population. Efforts were made to contact Tausinga and other activists mentioned in WRR, but telephone, email, and current postal contacts for these individuals could not be located via interviewees, the Solomon Islands’ government, web searches, or other sources. Frame passed away in 2009.

  3. Ian Frazer, ‘The Struggle for Control of Solomon Island Forests,’ The Contemporary Pacific, 1997, pp. 54–55; ‘Solomon Islands,’ p. 4.

    The organisation and tactics of the northern NSW forest campaigns, as well as the formation of RIC and its orientation towards transnational activism, had developed largely spontaneously. Either lacking or unaware of precedents, activists had improvised tactics and organisational forms as they went along. This makeshift approach continued with RIC’s trip to the Solomons, as according to Seed neither the local community nor the Australians began with a clear idea of what the visit might achieve. Although the relationship they built did not consciously follow any pre- existing frameworks or templates, it would serve as a model for RIC’s future work.58

    The trio were first taken on a tour of areas at risk from deforestation before engaging in open-ended discussions. Seed performed a number of protest songs originally written or adapted by those involved in the NSW blockades, and these were rewritten to reflect local conditions.59

    From this brokerage emerged an alliance that would see RIC support Solomon Islands activists into the 1990s. The Australians’ initial focus was to alert those outside of the Solomons as to what was happening as well as to pressure Unilever. Utilising existing contacts and mainstream and alternative media, the group initiated a letter-writing campaign that eventually grew into a boycott of the company’s many household prod- ucts. An Australian solidarity group was also formed, which issued a semi-regular newsletter and engaged in further lobbying of politicians in Australia and the Solomon Islands.60

    To directly encourage communities to resist signing agreements allow- ing industrial logging and the establishment of plantations, as well as to politically isolate the companies involved, RIC also engaged in educational tours of the Solomon Islands from 1984 onwards. Using music, lectures, and slideshows developed with locals or by other environmental organisa- tions, Frame and Seed went from island to island addressing communities, religious bodies, and politicians about the value of rainforests and the neg- ative consequences of clearcutting. Other than receiving support because of their willingness to undertake such work, Seed believes the pair’s

  4. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015; Bible, ‘Aquarius Rising: Terania Creek and the Australian Forest Protest Movement,’ pp. 40–44.

  5. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015; ‘Solomon Islands, Japan, India, Thailand,’ pp. 13–14.

  6. John Seed, ‘John Seed’s Travalog (Sic),’ World Rainforest Report, no. 5, 1986, p. 2; ‘Solomon Islands Urgent Report Re: Rennell Island,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 9, 1987, pp. 8–9.

    ‘outsider’ status may have allowed them to transcend religious and politi- cal differences in ways that would have been difficult for local activists.61

    RIC’s work in the Solomons, in combination with govern- ment departments and independent bodies such as the South Pacific Appropriate Technology Foundation, came to include investigating and promoting ecological and economic alternatives to clear-felling and mass plantations. These included the use of permaculture and portable saw- mills for sustainable, small-scale agriculture, and timber production.62 Members of RIC would later become more aware of, and influenced by, criticisms of Western environmentalists for viewing biodiverse ecosystems as human-free ‘wilderness,’ thereby ignoring the needs and opinions of those who resided in and/or owned the forests they were seeking to conserve.63 However, the manner in which Seed and Frame approached the needs and role of such communities in their transnational activism was, once more, largely conditioned by the circumstances in which they had come to it. As Seed recalls:

    One of the things that drew me to meeting the Koroga was that they were obviously pretty serious about their situation, they’d wiped out a logging camp after all! Clearly these were people we needed to meet and learn from. Once we got there we saw that they lived, used and worked in the forest. They were far more connected to it than we would ever be and its survival was in no way an abstract issue for them. This was also true with other communities RIC later became involved with in PNG, India and Ecuador.

    At the same time it was obvious that people needed money for medicine, petrol for their outboard motors, and so on. They had an absolute right to economic development and if there wasn’t some alternative way to get it, then many would eventually cave into pressure or be conned by multina- tional companies.64

  7. ‘Solomon Islands, Japan, India, Thailand,’ pp. 13–14; ‘Solomon Islands: Rennell Campaign,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 10, 1988, p. 10; Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

  8. ‘Snippets from the Solomons,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 5, 1986, p. 5; Rista Kilkki, ‘Reduction of Wood Waste by Small-Scale Log Production and Conversion in Tropical High Forest,’ Rome: FAO, 1992, pp. 1–5.

63 Peter, Interviewed 8 June 2015.

64 Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

In applying what Anderson describes as “a focus on forest peoples,”65 RIC prioritised the opinions of communities directly facing deforesta- tion, supported local campaigns, and collaboratively built transnational campaigns. The approach that RIC developed through its early work in the Solomon Islands can be characterised as a form of “social cosmo- politanism,” a concept more typically associated with political and socio- logical practice and analysis of trends in the 2000s. In contrast to other forms that have been criticised as colonialist, detached, and elitist, this understanding of cosmopolitanism is said by Marchetti to combine:

[T]he aspiration to achieve transnational and global justice with attentive- ness to local struggles and realities as they actually exist… It claims to be subaltern because it focuses on those voices that come from minorities, often from the south of the world, and not from the western centres of global governance. It is thick because it is imbued with solidaristic prin- ciples of social justice, and is not minimalist in terms of liberal non-harm. It is embedded because it is inserted within a social context characterized by intense mutual obligations and feelings of attachment to a comprehen- sive political experience, rather than referring to loose institutional rela- tionships. Finally, it is rooted in that it emerges from local practices and remains tightly connected with political struggles from below, in opposi- tion to elitist management.66

In many ways the Solomon Islands was a fortuitous place for RIC to first begin working outside Australia. direct flights were available and rela- tively affordable, and difficulties with communication were minimised as some locals, particularly those with political and religious influence, spoke English due to the country’s historical connection to the British Empire. The country’s neo-colonial relationship with Australia poten- tially lent anyone from there limited, but valuable, access and authority. It conversely forced RIC to navigate unequal power relationships and discern when they could be appropriately exploited in support of their allies. Most importantly, there was already a high level of dissatisfaction

65 Anderson, Interviewed 9 June 2015.

66 Raffaele Marchetti, Global Democracy: Ethical Theory, Institutional Design and Social Struggles, London, New York: Routledge, 2008, p. 101.

with logging companies, with the largest of these vulnerable to consumer pressure in Western markets.67

Although clear-felling would increase in scope, becoming the Solomons’ largest export industry by the 1990s, environmental activ- ism was established as a “broadly based countervailing force” to “the large-scale capital intensive development preferred by the central govern- ment.”68 Local activists claimed that almost immediately after RIC wrote to Unilever, LPT instituted new forest management practices and heav- ily increased royalty payments. Tausinga was elected Western Province Premier and a member of the national parliament in 1984. He and another politician, Vincent Vaguni, who set up a local chapter of RIC, pushed for amendments to give landowners more input into logging agreements. Some communities rejected offers from companies, and a small number used blockades and threats of property destruction to halt proposed or ongoing projects. Following the initiation of a boycott cam- paign in Europe and Australia, and criticism from the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister, Unilever announced it would sell LPT in 1986, citing increased difficulties in negotiations with local landholders as its main reason for doing so.69

RIC’s Solomon Islands campaign and tours not only provided it with a model for collaborative overseas work and experience in it, but also led to further brokerage and the expansion of its network as it brought other trans- national activists on board. This chapter now explains how RIC’s early con- nections to activists in the US influenced its approach and further increased the scope of information sharing, networking, and tactical diffusion.

eartH firSt! and overSeaS tourS

Seed first came in contact with the then primarily US-based, radical envi- ronmental network Earth First! (EF) in 1981 when poet Gary Snyder gave him a copy of its journal while on tour in Australia. Impressed with the group’s militant and grassroots approach he began corresponding

  1. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015; Frazer, ‘The Struggle for Control of Solomon Island Forests.’

  2. Frazer, ‘The Struggle for Control of Solomon Island Forests,’ pp. 39–40.

  3. Ibid., pp. 54–56; ‘From the Solomon Islands,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 2, 1984, pp. 5–6; ‘Unilever Quits Solomons Logging,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 6.5, 1986, p. 2.

with some of its core members and was invited to join founders dave Foreman, Mike Roselle, and others on a 1984 tour of 25 cities.70

described as an “old-fashioned medicine show with a new mes- sage,”71 EF’s ‘roadshows’ imbued music, speeches, and presentations with what Foreman described as “humour, passion, to describe visionary wilderness proposals.”72 The 1984 tour was focused on rainforests, and Seed spoke about their overall importance as well as the Solomon Islands and Australian campaigns. Roselle, whose interest in rainforests had been sparked by an article Seed had written in Nimbin News, had already begun researching the involvement of the US fast food company Burger King in deforestation in Costa Rica. Following in the mould of previous EF roadshows, as well as long-standing activist precedents, the tour suc- cessfully encouraged audiences in each place they visited to organise a local protest concerning the issue on the shared date of April 28.73

The diffusion of activist repertoires is almost always an interactive process, with even seemingly straightforward transmission and adop- tion affecting all the participants and items involved to some degree. Although discussion of the full range of diffusion and collaboration between radical Australian and American environmentalists is not possi- ble, two main flows are considered.

The first of these was Seed’s promotion of the environmental blockad- ing template. Although the US had a long tradition of obstructive direct action and civil disobedience by labour, civil rights, and anti-nuclear movements, EF had mainly engaged in and promoted the use of ral- lies, stunts, and ‘monkey-wrenching’ (the damaging of an opponent’s equipment and property) as means of opposing environmental destruc- tion.74 Inspired by letters from Seed and reports he wrote concerning the Nightcap, Franklin dam, and other blockades in Australia, a 1982

70 Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015; ‘Introduction,’ p. 1.

  1. Susan Zakin, Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! And the Radical Environmental Movement, New York: Viking, 1993, p. 191.

  2. Quoted in ibid., p. 194.

  3. Mike Roselle, Tree Spiker: From Earth First! To Lowbagging, My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action, New York: St. Martins Press, 2009, pp. 73–75; John Seed, ‘Introduction,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 2, 1984, p. 1.

74 Anthony Silvaggio, ‘The Forest defense Movement, 1980–2005: Resistance at the Point of Extraction, Consumption and Production,’ Phd dissertation, University of Oregon, 2005, pp. 89–126.

editorial in the movement’s flagship newspaper, the Earth First! Journal (EFJ), stated “Our brothers and sisters in Australia have set a powerful example for us.”75 Early the following year a front-page article claimed “the world leadership in wilderness preservation has passed to Australia” whilst another article specifically encouraged US activists to emulate Australian campaigners by stopping “bulldozers and chainsaws with their bodies.”76

EF members engaged in their first forest blockade in 1983, with Seed’s presentations the following year further encouraging such devel- opments. despite EFJ reports and activists continuing to reference Australian examples, EF’s blockades differed greatly in practice and organisation. Because of activist availability and the influence of prece- dents from the US anti-nuclear movement, until 1990 American actions would generally be intermittent rather than ongoing, based on small- group rather than mass actions, and rarely include established protest camps.77

A second process of diffusion saw EF influence RIC’s future tours and approach to organising campaign coalitions. Having already witnessed the “power of music to move people”78 during Australian blockades and meetings in the Solomon Islands, RIC had included songs in its presen- tations and protests. EF’s combination of entertainment with informa- tion and agitation, and its roadshows’ success in founding new branches and organising protests, inspired Seed to avoid the more common lec- ture format as well as engage in dozens of tours around the world.79

Adding to RIC’s existing visuals and music, songs were learnt from EF and new slideshows developed and borrowed from sources such as the IUCN. In turn, EF activists began to sing songs originally composed

75 dave Foreman, ‘Around the Campfire,’ Earth First!, vol. 3, no. 2, 1982, p. 2.

76 ‘700 Arrested in Australia,’ Earth First! Journal, vol. 3, no. 3, 1983, p. 1; ‘Blockade

Updates,’ Earth First! Journal, March 1983, pp. 1, 5.

77 Ric Bailey, ‘Bald Mountain in Restrospect,’ Earth First! Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, 1983, pp. 6–7; Brian Health, ‘What do You Expect to Accomplish Anyway?,’ Earth First! Journal, November 1984, p. 5; Roselle, Tree Spiker: From Earth First! To Lowbagging, My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action, pp. 67, 73.

78 Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

79 Ibid.; Clark, ‘If a Tree Falls, John Seed Hears It,’ [Access date 20 April 2015].

in Northern NSW.80 In addition documentaries, initially in 32-mm film format and later as easier-to-transport videocassettes, by Terania Creek veterans Jenni Kendall and Paul Tait were also screened at many RIC events including tours of the US: these included Give Trees A Chance, their 1980 film concerning Terania Creek, and the 1985 Earth First!, which covered a number of Australian blockades.81

despite sharing an organisational title with branches in several loca- tions, EF was essentially a decentralised network. The standard practice for major US and Australian environmental organisations at the time was to recruit members who would then financially support a small num- ber of professional activists. These persons would be responsible for setting the direction of the organisation and carrying out research and campaigning, usually focused on lobbying politicians, and later corpora- tions, as well as forging relationships with them. Reflecting its founders’ anarchist and libertarian leanings, as well as their own rejection of the mainstream organisations for whom a number had previously worked, each branch of EF was autonomous and responsible for its own activi- ties. Coordination, discussion, and information sharing were largely con- ducted via the EFJ as well as regional and national gatherings.82

EF’s campaigning style appealed to Seed, on both philosophical and practical grounds. As he recalls:

I’m not really a person who is big on admin and I already had enough things to do so I was never interested in making myself or RIC the focal and driving point… I saw the effectiveness of getting people to set up their own groups and do protests in lots of different places on that 1984 tour. Rather than putting all your energy into getting 50 or 100 or more people out in one place, if you had the same number spread over 20 places, all putting out press releases and holding their own protests, then it was much more powerful.83

In keeping with this, RIC tours in the 1980s did not seek to build or promote a specific organisation or form of action. Rather, audiences

80 ‘damn Hetchy dam!,’ Earth First! Journal, vol. 4, no. 5, 1984, p. 19.

  1. ‘Earth First!: The Movie,’ World Rainforest Report, no. 9, 1987, p. 21.

  2. Timothy Ingalsbee, ‘Earth First! Activism: Ecological Postmodern Praxis in Radical Environmentalist Identities,’ Sociological Perspectives, vol. 39, no. 2, 1996, pp. 264–265.

  3. Seed, Interviewed 5 June 2015.

    were encouraged to get involved in local campaigns, and where these did not exist, to start one, organise a protest, or lend support in other ways. More specific organising suggestions would later come following the formation of the US Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in 1985 at the end of another EF roadshow in which Seed took part. RAN’s sub- sequent creation of more than 150 autonomous US Rainforest Action Groups (RAGs) modelled along EF lines inspired RIC to conduct the first of many Australian roadshows in december 1988 and January 1989. during this tour, Seed and others explicitly advocated the establishment of autonomous RAGs along RAN lines, with the result that an Australian network rapidly emerged carrying out more than 40 blockades and pro- tests in the next two years.84


    Working with other Western-based environmental organisations, as well as activists in countries facing deforestation, RIC had a major role in brokering a global network of rainforest campaigners in the 1980s, one which has been rarely acknowledged in the academic literature concerning environmental and transnational activism. RIC founders’ involvement in conservation campaigns rooted in the New Settler com- munity of Northern NSW led to outreach, which in turn influenced a turn to overseas issues. Early connections forged with activists in the Solomon Islands and US further shaped RIC’s transnational orientation, focus on local communities, and decentralised organisational methods. Correspondence, mutual campaigning, and tours of these countries by RIC activists led to the direct diffusion of information regarding rain- forests, organisational forms, and repertoires of protest. The processes involved in this development were based on translation, evaluation, and collaboration rather than simple, one-way transmission of ideas and information.

    The nature and evolution of RIC’s work demonstrates how various macroscopic factors and processes identified by theorists as driving trans- national activism have tended to interplay with, rather than dominate, one another. The influence of local, cross-national, and global concerns

  4. McQuire, ‘Nonviolent Action and Television News: The Case of the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group, 1989–91,’ p. 24.

upon the ‘rooted cosmopolitans’ of RIC fluctuated greatly throughout the 1980s. At certain points their transnational activities were primar- ily driven by local needs and influences. At others they were influenced by global pressures and a desire to engage in solidarity, with concepts regarding social justice and environmental interconnectedness weaving local and transnational concerns together.

All this confirms that attention to individual groups and activists will often challenge the validity of broad hypotheses in neatly explaining the source, pattern, and workings of political activity. It also underlines the need to investigate and consider the role of personal relationships, activist backgrounds, and direct experiences. The implications of these can extend beyond understanding individual groups and activists to include broader movements and developments. In the case of RIC, and Northern NSW forest activism, tactical and organisational forms and approaches that were the outcome of largely localised events and pro- cesses, as well as cross-national dialogue between individuals and small groups, not only fed into the creation of larger networks and movements but also influenced their means, operation, and choice of targets.