Was Edward Abbey Racist and Sexist?


Dead Horse PointEdward Abbey is a hero to many modern-day environmentalists: He’s a font of aphoristic wisdom, a forebear to lots of front-line activists, and a spiritual mentor to lovers of the desert West. But was he also a sexist and a racist? In the July-August issue of the radical environmental journal Earth First, a writer dubbed S@sh@ (EF writers often use pseudonyms) answers soundly in the affirmative:

One quick look at Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang exposes the racism and sexism that poisoned the movement throughout the 1980s. Its transparently patriarchal depictions of gender stereotypes show up throughout the book and are even more pervasive in Abbey’s disturbing diary, Confessions of a Barbarian.

Even if you aren’t as incensed as S@sh@ is by Abbey’s use of gender pronouns, and even if you don’t buy her outrageous claim that Abbey’s patriarchy basically killed him, it’s harder to argue with her case on his racism. She quotes piecemeal from an Abbey passage in Confessions, but in the interest of letting ol’ Ed speak for himself, here’s the whole eyebrow-raising section, which it must be noted was written in 1963, in the midst of the civil rights movement:

According to the morning newspaper, the population of America will reach 267 million by 2000 AD. An increase of forty million, or about one-sixth, in only seventeen years! And the racial composition of the population will also change considerably: the white birth rate is about sixty per thousand females, the Negro rate eighty-three per thousand, and the Hispanic rate ninety-six per thousand.

Am I a racist? I guess I am. I certainly do not wish to live in a society dominated by blacks, or Mexicans, or Orientals. Look at Africa, at Mexico, at Asia.

Garrett Hardin [the author of Tragedy of the Commons] compares our situation to an overcrowded lifeboat in a sea of drowning bodies. If we take more aboard, the boat will be swamped and we’ll all go under. Militarize our borders. The lifeboat is listing.

Tasmanian National-Anarchists
8/13/2009 6:40:55 AM

We have written a response to this article on our blog: tasna.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/earthfirst-infiltrated-by-pc-wankers/

Tasmanian National-Anarchists
8/13/2009 6:39:58 AM

We have written a response to this article on our blog: tasna.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/earthfirst-infiltrated-by-pc-wankers/

8/6/2009 1:38:10 PM

While over at EF, they were just spiking trees and injuring common loggers that were just trying to feed their families, albeit in a Neanderthalic way. EF'ers are just as guilty of violence as Abbey was of sexism and racism. Spot the difference. I'll give my contributions to Defenders Of Wildlife, NRDC and Sea Shepherd, thank you. Ed Abbey did much, much more good than harm. If he was a bit rough around the edges, who cares? If that offends the thin skinned PC crowd, too bad. -Doc

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