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by "Disco" Dave Dragonetti - Rosedog Books

Eco-Warrior - The Battle For Mother EarthPage-turning chronicles of one mans involvement in 5 years of green Direct Action in the UK in the 1990's. Mainly taking in the anti-roads movement at Manchester airport, Newbury, plus life at Faslane anti-nuclear Peace Camp, Disco details the highs and lows of life in the tunnels and treehouses at the front-line of ecological resistance.

Dave's journey into the anti-roads movement is probably atypical of the usual - having no background or friends involved at the time, he was initially content to record evictions on his camera, drawn by human interest to the evictions at the No M-11 protest site in London's Leytonstone. Hovering on the edges, Disco was drawn! further into the movement by a chance conversation with a seasoned veteran of the anti-roads campaign, who recommended he start help making history rather than merely record it. And so it began...

Disco's is an honest, and at times grim, account of life on a protest camp - the endless hostile weather, followed by endless lines of bailiffs and police, month after month. Building a treehouse in a tree that you know is doomed, the constant threat of eviction...and of course the camps inhabitants themselves...
No fan of anarchist politics, Disco slams the excuse for laziness that often dogs anarchist organisations.
Life in the path of the juggernaut was, it seems, often dominated by excessive alcohol and hash consumption. Whether this is a human reaction to such harsh and volatile conditions or a reflection of British culture in general is open for debate, but leads the author at one stage to comment that the easiest way for the State to debilitate the protest camps would have been to parachute in crates of whiskey and weed and watch the hippies drop.

One by one the anti-roads camps of the 90's rose and fell, fueled by an idealism and determination that made up, in large part, for the lack of logistical experience. How no one was killed at these campaigns is a mystery. The creativity and resourcefulness of these camps cannot be overestimated, and the book could have done with a few more photo's to really illustrate the innovation of some of the treehouse defenses and the Ho-Chi-Min type tunnels that were dug to do them proper justice.

The book is at it's best when describing the dynamics between those characters attracted to the Camps- from the heroic to the broken and everyone in-between. The rapport that developed between them and some members of the bailiff teams is interesting. Both, in a way, had a vested interest in prolonging the evictions for as long as possible - the bailiffs were getting richer by the day as the tunnellers broke records and harnessed massive media attention. In typical tabloid style, much of this interest focused on the "lifestyle" angle, picking Swampy as the movements icon. Questions of national importance, like how do deal with your shit in a tunnel, were raised, as the real issues were sidelined. Disco's time at Faslane Peace Camp north of Glasgow is another highlight. A seasoned veteran by this point, it's not long before he's off reinforcing the camps defenses by digging a network of tunnels beneath the caravans and benders. This led to him publishing an online "how-to" guide at www.discodavestunnelguide.com The camps semi-permanent status and slower pace of life allows the book to go more behind the scenes, detailing the personalities and dynamics amongst those alongside Dave.

At times, Dave's rhetoric becomes confusing. Proudly working class, he nevertheless manages to be very dismissive of his classes potential. At one meeting he attends, he writes "being working class, they (those at the meeting) just didn't have the confidence to stand up and defy authority". Best leave it to the middle class students, then?

Ultimately, these campaigns were battles of wits and stamina. And what stamina - Disco spent 22 days his last tunnel at Manchester Airport. 22 days in a tiny dark hole as the bailiffs inch there way through. By day 20 the tunnel ceiling began to crumble, and Dave knew time was short. He emerged when it became clear he would be buried alive if he stayed. The tunnel collapsed 15 minutes later.

Dave left that site with a head "like a bombed out building". Suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, he received counseling and effectively retired from the battle. Here the book ends, though you know there's more. Owing to space restrictions, Disco mentions just briefly a trip to Ireland, a stint in prison and joining the TA. Perhaps a Part 2 is necessary.

It's worth remembering that though the various battles were often lost and the land trashed, the movement forced the State to cancel two-thirds of the rest of their road-building program. Camps still exist, and more has been won - witness Nine Ladies Camp recent victory in Derbyshire.

p.s. this is the only book I've read with links for Class War and the Territorial Army on the same page.

p.p.s. how do you deal with shit in a tunnel?

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