Green anarchism is a school of thought within anarchism which puts an emphasis on environmental issues. Some green anarchists can be described as anarcho-primitivists and sometimes anti-civilization anarchists, though not all green anarchists are primitivists. Likewise, there is a strong critique of technology among some green anarchists, though not all reject it entirely. Sometimes green anarchism is said to be techno-positive or techno-negative to differentiate between those who advocate use of advanced green technology to create and maintain an anarchist society and those who mainly see civilization and modern technology as something negative.
Green anarchism incorporates a set of related political theories that is derived from philosophical and social movements such as social ecologists, feminism, egoism, the Situationists, surrealism, the Luddites, Anarcho-primitivism, post- and anti-leftists, indigenous, anti-industrialism, and pre-civilized people.
Although green anarchism develops themes present in the political action of the Luddites and the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, when primitivism emerged it was influenced more directly by the works of theorists such as the Frankfurt School Marxists Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse; anthropologists Marshall Sahlins and Richard Borshay Lee; and others such as Lewis Mumford, Jean Baudrillard and Gary Snyder. Many advocates of Green anarchism and primitivism consider Fredy Perlman as the modern progenitor of their views.
Notable contemporary writers espousing green anarchism include those critical of technology such as Derrick Jensen, George Draffan, and John Zerzan; the techno-positive Murray Bookchin; and others including Alan Carter.
The following is mainly a presentation of the techno-negative views on society. Techno-positive anarchists adhere to a more classical anarchist analysis.
The green anarchist critique focuses on the institutions of domination that make up society, all grouped under the broad term “civilization”. Such institutions include the the state, capitalism, industrialism, globalization, domestication, patriarchy, science, technology, and/or work. These institutions, according to green anarchists, are inherently destructive and exploitative (to humans and the environment) – therefore, they cannot be reformed into anything better. This movement generally rejects furthering their cause through current political lines, favoring direct and autonomous action, sabotage, insurrection, bioregionalism, and reconnecting with the wild to create meaningful change.
Civilization is taken to be the totality of institutions (described above) that are responsible for the destruction of human freedom and the environment. Physically, civilization is demarcated by the domestication of plants, animals, and humans (though its beginning has been traced back through time, language, art, and symbolic culture – see John Zerzan). Agriculture introduced the concept of a surplus along with the conditions for the rise of these institutions. Before agriculture, humans often lived as autonomous bands of hunter-gatherers. Essentially, hunter-gatherers are perceived to be part of human anarchist ancestry since all humans practised that mode of life for around two million years. Civilization is often seen as more of a paradigm of systems rather than a tangible thing, and one that places human beings above and outside of the natural world. This is seen as the first step towards, and justification for, the destruction of nature (humans included).
Green anarchists do not advocate a return to the stone age or the replication of hunter-gatherer lifestyles, but instead a deep questioning of the reality humans have been given, and a wish to see those questions (namely the questioning of civilization) put into effective praxis by creating new communities that exist without these institutions of domination, while at the same time resisting the current ones in place.
Many green anarchists argue that small eco-villages (of no more than a few hundred people) are a scale of human living preferable to civilization, and that infrastructure and political systems should be re-organized to ensure that these are created. Green Anarchists assert that social organizations must be designed to work with natural forces, rather than against.
Many green anarchists consider traditional forms of social organization such as the village, band, or tribe to be preferred units of human life, not for some Noble Savage concept of spiritual superiority, but because these social organizations appear to work better than civilization. Family is considered to be more important to many green anarchists than work roles. Green anarchist philosophy can be explained as an interpretation of anthropological and biological truths, or natural laws.
Some green anarchists, identifying themselves as primitivists, advocate a process of 'rewilding' and a return to nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles while many green anarchists only wish to see an end to industrial society and do not necessarily oppose domestication or agriculture. Key theorists in the former category include Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan while the 'Unabomber' Theodore Kaczynski belongs in the latter, though the boundaries are blurred at times, both Jensen and Zerzan making positive references to some forms of permaculture. Other green anarchists, mainly techno-positivists, propose other forms of organizations like arcology or technates.
Many green anarchists choose to focus not on philosophical issues for a future society, but on the defense of the earth and social revolution in the present. Resisting systems in the present, and creating alternative, sustainable ways of living are often deemed more important than frivolous protesting.
Most Green Anarchists hold their ideals passionately and some engage in direct action. Organizing themselves through groups like Earth First!, Root Force, or more drastically, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Earth Liberation Army (ELA) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF). They may take direct action against what they see as systems of oppression, such as the logging industry, the meat and dairy industries, animal testing laboratories, genetic engineering facilities and, more rarely, government institutions.
Such actions are normally, though not always, non-violent. Though not necessarily Green anarchists, activists have used the names Animal Rights Militia, Justice Department and Revolutionary Cells among others, to claim responsibility for openly violent attacks.