Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Kristi Frazier, Patrick Gambuti, Jr. and ML Lincoln for ML Lincoln Films. LLC
Directed by ML Lincoln
DVD, color, 88 min.
Middle School - General Adult
Conservation, Ecoterrorism, Environmentalism
Date Entered: 07/01/2015Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH
Edward Abbey (1927-1989) was an author and early environmentalist, perhaps best known for his 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang which describes a type of environmental activism called “monkeywrenching,” the sabotaging of construction projects, particularly dam building projects, dams which destroy particularly beautiful wilderness canyons when completed. For example, the waters backed up by the Glen Canyon Dam flooded 186 miles of canyon, something Abbey felt was unsupportable. Abbey’s legacy is that today his writings continue to serve as handbooks for environmental activists opposed to actions that would destroy the environment. The more extreme actions of these activists can be described as ecoterrorism. Generally, Abbey is credited with being the first to combine anarchism with environmentalism.
The first two thirds of the film tells Abbey’s story. Writer/editor Patrick Gambuti, Jr. has blended still photos, archival footage, reenactment footage, and interviews with environmentalists and Abbey’s friends to create a comprehensive portrait of a complex, highly intelligent man. He was a man who valued wilderness conservation over wilderness subjugation, a man committed to the value of wilderness, willing to fight for it up to, and possibly including, breaking the law. In the archival footage are images of Glen Canyon before the Dam that will make the viewer question if the water impoundment was worth it. Though some of Abbey’s associates, those able to identify themselves as models for characters in Abbey’s fiction, suggested that he sabotaged dam-building equipment, the nearest Abbey can be proved to be “monkeywrenching” was during a demonstration in which protesters unfurled a 300 foot black plastic “crack” from the top of Glen Canyon Dam. Even the sheriff found it amusing. Otherwise, Abbey’s activism extended to lending his eloquence and presence in many meetings held on land development in the American Southwest.
The last third of the film is devoted to Abbey’s legacy, providing a framework and ethic for ecoterrorism. Both Earth First! (U.S.A.) and the Earth Liberation Front or ELF (international) can be seen to be directly influenced by Abbey’s radical environmental ethic and his “monkeywrenching” methodology. Though further down the FBI’s terrorist threat list than ELF, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher (Peaceful Uprising) served a prison sentence for disrupting a Bureau of Land Management auction for oil and gas leases in Utah. DeChristopher also acknowledges his respect for Abbey’s writings.
Wrenched is highly recommended. This is an excellent film that asks the viewer to consider values, and once considered, to evaluate those values if they ethically conflict with the law. When and how should one act? Should one fight for the environment, and if so, at what cost? If Abbey’s legacy is the creation of a community to fight for the environment, do we want to be part of that community?