SCROLL DOWN to READ THE REVIEWS of TROUBLE in the FOREST
:From the rear cover:
“Trouble in the Forest is a first class work of considerable importance. There is no equivalent book to this one in the study of the conflict over the California redwoods, even though it is on of the emblematic struggles of modern environmentalism.”
— John Bellamy Foster, University of Oregon
“What Mike Davis has so memorably done for Los Angeles County in City of Quartz, Richard Widick has now done for Humboldt County in this provocative narrative. Through the prisms and perspectives of history, social theory, contemporary conflict, and analysis from a global/local point of view, Widick evokes a clash of civilizations pitting unregulated capitalism against an increasingly militant reformist concern for the survival of the planet.”
EXCERPT FROM THE PREFACE (published here with the addition of one very long sentence I did not include in my final copy edit, but now wish I had):
“The Wiyot genocide helps explain why there are no running historical accounts of the seaborne colonization of northern California’s Humboldt Bay redwood region handed down to us from Wiyot elders. There is no comparable archive of Wiyot language counter-narratives to challenge the colonizers’ own stories of discovery, conquest, appropriation and settlement of Humboldt, or of the liberal democratic-republican nation they represented; the Constitution about which they continuously spoke and which channeled their labor into modern, western, rational institutions; the formation of local governments that subjected redwood peoples and their territory to religious, patriarchal, racial and scientific knowledges; the signification of the First Peoples’ places as private property, for whites only, for farming, for mining, and ultimately for the lumbering that would become the dominant industry; the construction of a free press and its continuous, spectacular symbolic display of liberal national mores; the building of ports, farms, forts, schools, churches, hospitals, mills, highways, railroads, telegraph lines, telephone systems and finally the Web; the ceaseless waves of immigration; the proliferation of fraternal organizations, all vying for control over small regions of morality; the local race and culture wars that followed them wherever they staked out their rival claims; the industrialization of economic life, which socialized production and created new classes and forms of class consciousness; the mechanization of production, which transformed all of the redwood communities of labor and environment; the labor unions that struggled to transform the practical rights of work and property in the redwood logging empires they built; or the deforestation that industrial commodification of redwood ecology visited on the coastal range and its First Peoples’ territories. Between 1850 and 1990 more than ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forest fell in the name of this cultural onslaught.
But these local stories of capital culture and the American nation-state reaching into redwood ecology and Indian territory were told and printed and archived in the English language–the new world’s hegemonic tongue–and so these are the texts that shape the experience of every new scholar of the place of Humboldt.
Trouble in the Forest is my search through these textual ruins of capital culture in the bay redwood region, seeking a sense of that colonizing culture’s knowledge and power–the motor, in other words, of its institutional dynamism. Fifteen decades of capital in Humboldt structure this place and the contemporary redwood timber wars that animate it, ensuring that the struggle over ancient forests would in fact be about much more than trees. It is a battle for the future, over how this place has been and thus how it will be known–over how it has been and will be recognized and represented and how its peoples’ constitutive memories, energies and attentions will contribute, or not, to emergent global civil society. The place we discover here today is an outcome of this ongoing struggle over local knowledge, but it also feeds into a larger struggle–perhaps the greatest humankind has ever faced. We are entering an era of planetary ecological crisis, in which leading establishment environmentalists like James Gustave Speth concur with the Union of Concerned Scientists and socialist environmental theorists like John Bellamy Foster that capitalism as we know it today cannot sustain the environment. For this reason we critically need studies of specific places–like Humboldt–to help us understand why.”
EXCERPT FROM THE CONCLUSION:
“When we shiver in witness of untimely death, or flush in the warm celebration of extraordinary life, or shudder at the gravity of syndicated forces towering over us and acting on the world as if free of constraint, the thick veil of routine that obscures so much of the social world grows thinner for a moment or is cast aside completely. The routines of life, for an instant no longer inured to the urgency of historical forces, quicken to their pace. Exemplary figures identify us and bind us to the unfolding story. We find ourselves attached to the plot. David “Gypsy” Chain, Julia “Butterfly” Hill and the company town of Scotia are elements like this in the timber war story. They take us over the threshold of daily life, attracting our attentions away from habitual concerns and channeling them into Humboldt’s public culture of environmental conflict. They are living, symbolic and built mediators–messengers, in other words–if we choose to listen in. Their particular transmissions are concrete expressions of the modern social imaginary in the redwoods” (Widick 2009:277).
***** READ THESE REVIEWS of TROUBLE IN THE FOREST *****
Kindra Aschenbrenner reviews Trouble in the Forest in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 36, 2014.