Theodore “Unabomber” Kaczynski, my former neighbor, loosely speaking, has died at age 81. From 1998–2021 he was in the “Supermax” facility at the federal prison complex outside Florence, Colorado, a place I usually drive past once or twice a week. More recently he was in a federal prison hospital, possibly an improvement to being in a concrete box 23 hours a day.
Shortly after he arrived at ADX Florence, I was walking up Pike’s Peak Avenue to the post office. I saw a man on the sidewalk who looked a lot like a prominent scholar of American nature religion, but I knew that that guy lived in the Southeast and would not be in Florence. Until he said, “Hi, Chas.”
The scholar was sharing a motel room in nearby Cañon City with one of the editors of the Earth First! journal. Back when Earth First! was the freewheeling, ecotage-promoting, Neanderthal-affirming organization that dated its publication by the Celtic wheel of the year, I had been a subscriber. In fact, I had had dinner one night with co-founder Dave Foreman in Boulder one time and had a great conversation about Neanderthal people, as they were understood and theorized back in the 1980s.
Apparently the EF! editor was on Kaczynski’s approved visitor list. The scholar, who had been around EF! before, had hoped to get on that list too, with research interests in mind. Unfortunately, “Uncle Ted” said no.
Dave Foreman split with Earth First! in 1990. I had not given all EF! as much thought in the 90s, but when M. and I paid a visit to their motel, we found . . . a different tone.
Kacyznski’s message of distrust in technological “progress” was important, the editorMore properly, member of the “editorial collective”? affirmed. But there was that public-relations problem with his “unique program of direct action,” as she put it.
In the motel hallway, I shook my head. Unique program of direct action — that is how you describe sending letter bombs when you speak fluent Enviro-tankie. Earth First! had changed all right. The journal had lost its Pagan-ish-adjacent flavor. And where are they now? More an idea than a (loose) organization, still invoked by ecotageurs. Funny thing, Uncle Ted was no fan of the political left, at least in some of his writings as quoted at the link.