September 25th, 2009 by Dean Kuipers No comments »

A nice review of OPERATION BITE BACK in the Autumn 2009 issue of Earth Island Journal. You can’t actually get to it on their website, as most of the content is available only to subscribers, but my rad publicist at Bloomsbury USA sent me the following copy. I am pleased that the book is getting some consideration by the more well-known environmental groups, as Rod’s story is a great story for the movement to know and talk about.

“If the book did nothing but recount Coronado’s string of arson attacks, it would be highly entertaining, as good as any first-rate adventure story. But Kuipers goes further, using Coronado’s story to trace the history of the radical environmental movement and explore the divisions–philosophical and tactical–that various forms of direct action have caused among eco-activists.”  —Earth Island Journal

Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado’s War to Save American Wilderness
BYLINE: Federman, Adam

Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado’s War to Save American Wilderness

by Dean Kuipers

295 pages, Bloomsbury, 2009


Rod Coronado’s most spectacular act of eco-sabotage occurred on the evening of November 8, 1986. Coronado and David Howitt, both about 20 years old and members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, sought to do nothing less than cripple Iceland’s whaling fleet and draw attention to countries flouting a global ban on the hunting of whales then in place. Camouflaged in dark rain gear and ski masks, they first destroyed the Hvalfjordur whaling station, smashing its computer control room, confiscating record books to prove that Iceland was still killing whales, and dumping expensive repair equipment into the fjord. They then set their sights on sinking two of Iceland’s four whalers. After making sure the boats were empty, the two men loosened the valves that regulated how much seawater was used to cool the engines, eventually filling the boats and sending them to the bottom of the harbor. The following day; after successfully fleeing to London, they read about their work in the newspaper. They caused more than $2 million worth of damage and, important to both men, harmed no one. As Dean Kuipers, author of Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado’s War to Save American Wilderness, recently told CounterPunch, “This action got a lot of accolades because it was a model of nonviolence.”

Six years later, Kuipers,  an editor at the Los Angeles Times, met Coronado for the first time at a cafe in Venice Beach. [This is actually misleading:  I am an editor at the L.A. Times NOW, but not then; I was freelancing for the L.A. Weekly -- dk] Coronado was still working for the Sea Shepherd Society (he had first given them money when he was only 12 years old and skipped college to join the organization), but was wanted by the FBI and would soon disappear altogether, showing up unannounced to see Kuipers when he wanted to talk. Operation Bite Back, based on those conversations, tells the story of Coronado’s effort to destroy the fur industry by targeting research facilities and fur farms across the country.

If the book did nothing but recount Coronado’s string of arson attacks, it would be highly entertaining, as good as any first-rate adventure story. But Kuipers goes further, using Coronado’s story to trace the history of the radical environmental movement and explore the divisions–philosophical and tactical–that various forms of direct action have caused among eco-activists.

Those divisions have their roots in the uneasy alliance between the monkey wrenchers, exemplified by Dave Foreman, whom Kuipers describes as the “type of old-school white-guy Teddy Roosevelt-Gifford Pinchot conservationist who liked his wilderness camping with steak and whisky,” and the animal rights movement, inspired by Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation and more likely to be influenced by anarchist punk bands and veganism. It wasn’t just that the old guard was less invested in animal rights as a cause (Kuipers has seen Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, devour many a steak at Central American yacht clubs), but they also felt that animal rights activists were more concerned with what eco-philosopher Murray Bookchin called lifestyle anarchism. “Lifestyle anarchism,” Bookchin wrote in a 1995 essay, “takes flight from all meaningful social activism and a steadfast commitment to lasting and creative projects by dissolving into kicks, postmodernist nihilism, and a dizzying Nietzschean sense of elitist superiority.”

It would be unfair to characterize Coronado’s actions as mere kicks. He believed deeply in his crusade and that he was fighting for more than just an end to the fur industry. He maintained his commitment to nonviolence throughout, though many questioned whether it was simply luck that the fires he set never hurt anyone. Ultimately; even Coronado would distance himself from the methods he used. In an open letter to the environmental movement, written from a prison cell in Arizona, Coronado denounced direct action. “I still see the rationale for what I’ve done,” he wrote in 2006, “only no longer do I personally choose to represent the cause of peace and compassion in that way.”

Any discussion of Coronado’s legacy would be incomplete without assessing the impact of punitive counterterrorism measures on the environmental movement following the attacks of September 11. Even though no one has been killed or injured as a result of the direct action tactics of the radical environmental movement in the US, more than a dozen of Coronado’s colleagues are serving (or have served) prison terms for acts of eco-sabotage. The FBI considers ecoterrorism the number one domestic terrorism threat in the US, on a par with Al Qaeda, and the destruction of property alone can now bring with it charges of terrorism.

In such a perilous climate, one might reasonably ask whether Kuipers’ book will be the last chapter of the history of the radical environmental movement.

Operation Bite Back on Very Short List

August 20th, 2009 by Dean Kuipers No comments »

Great news! Operation Bite Back was featured on the Very Short List for today, August 20, 2009. The VSL is an emailed list of highly-curated selections from the influential NYC newspaper, The Observer. I don’t know how many people receive the VSL, but it’s many, many eyeballs all over the country, and those eyeballs are in the heads of smart, in-the-know people. I am totally rejoicing at the fact that some of those people will read the book and some of them may be moved to take a look at these terrorism charges. Plus, I like the fact that people are simply reading the book, for Rod’s sake and mine. :)

Check out the VSL Page here.

or here’s the link:

“Operation Bite Back” major reviews

August 2nd, 2009 by Dean Kuipers No comments »

The new review on the Christian Science Monitor site reminds me that I haven’t put up the other terrific reviews of the book posted by other sites. I’m proud of what’s been said about the book thus far.  Oh, yes, there’s a long, drawn-out screed about the book posted on Amazon by Teresa Platt, executive director of the Fur Commission USA, but that’s to be expected. You can find it here, along with my own rebuttals in the comments. I think she also posted the same analysis on the Christian Science Monitor site and generated a storm of comments!

Here’s the other great stuff that’s been written about the book thus far, in one handy index:

Los Angeles Times review:,0,6252540.story

Oregonian review:

Christian Science Monitor review and podcast:

Grist interview:

Counterpunch interview:

There will also be video soon from the Seattle Channel. CSPAN’s BookTV has been airing a one-hour segment with me, but I don’t find it as a link on their site. Maybe that happens after they stop airing it. It would be great if someone who is a regular BookTV watcher could let me know about that.

“Operation Bite Back” on Christian Science Monitor

July 18th, 2009 by Dean Kuipers No comments »

Very nice piece on the book just went up on Christian Science Monitor site. Nice intro, good interview. And it’s available as a Podcast on their site. You can find it here.

The book is getting incredibly favorable treatment from reviewers who pick it up. Now if I could just get those folks a the New York Times to crack it.

Parsing the Word “Terrorism”

July 10th, 2009 by Dean Kuipers No comments »

Sitting right now in Orca Books in Olympia, WA, getting ready for a reading. Last two days have been hectic, but fun. Wednesday noon in Seattle I had a nice brownbag with the staff at Grist, the online environmental magazine, which was really cool and informative for all involved especially me. I was reminded that the subject of my book Operation Bite Back — radical environmentalists and animal rights activists whose actions are now the subject of terrorism prosecution — is a really a subject that the mainstream environmental movement regards from a long way off.  It was not so surprising that many of the staff knew little about the history of Rod Coronado and his friends and accomplices, but it was a little bit disconcerting that they were not aware of the ramp-up in terrorism legislation and how this could affect the movement.

Maybe the lesson here is that this will never concern the bulk of people who fight for legislation to curb global warming and the like — and it probably won’t. But parsing the word “terrorism” and what it means so that it can’t apply to people like Rod or Daniel McGowan is an essential project. Who will take that on?

Nice crowd that night at Seattle Town Hall. Yes, it was a little diminished by the huge event going on upstairs with Gen. David Petraeus, but not as much as I’d imagined, and the Seattle Channel was there getting it all on TV, too. I realized afterward that I had done in my talk almost exactly what Rod had done: in describing his 2003 speech in San Diego, I told how he had answered a question about how his incendiaries were made and I mimed the way he picked up an apple jug and, though I didn’t know all the details about how his incendiaries were made, I gave a mock description. Now, there I’ll be doing it on TV, somewhat like Rod. They tried to get him with a terrorism charge for that. I hope those watching still understand the meaning of the First Amendment.

Portland was at Powell’s on Hawthorne, and I was thrilled that Rod’s parents Ray and Sunday Coronado came walking in. They listened intently and seemed to enjoy the presentation, and afterward they were the very model of graciousness and support as they came forward and congratulated me for writing the book. They had not talked to me — at least, not this time — when I was researching in 2008, and Ray joked, “And now he’s followed us to Portland.” He was all smiles, and they walked off with a couple books. It’s a funny thing to be reading a book to the very people who lived the whole thing. I always wonder if it must sound ridiculous. But I guess not. At least, they never said so.

The other great thing about both this store, Orca, and Powell’s Hawthorne? They’re packed. People in and out the door constantly. Buying books, selling books, researching books. Books are very much alive!

‘Operation Bite Back’ on Book TV and tour

July 2nd, 2009 by Dean Kuipers No comments »

On Saturday, June 27, we had a nice turnout at Book Soup in West Hollywood, with “Book TV” in the house, really smart questions and a good discussion. A couple of nice surprises. First, Jonathan Paul’s sister Alexandra Paul — you once knew her as Lt. Holden on ‘Baywatch’ — turned up with her husband Ian and made a couple observations that made me realize I was going to be asked for a lot more than just telling Rod Coronado’s story on this tour.  Ian pointed out that I kept on referring to this book as a book about “terrorism” and referring to the people in it as eco-terrorists.  The book I wrote is an argument that hardcore direct action activists like Rodney are NOT terrorists, in their intentions or their acts, and that the expansion of the use of the word “terrorism” is something that the civil rights and environmental communities should be actively resisting. Which, for various reasons probably including expediency and even patriotism, has not been happening. But I realize now I’ll have to be constantly making this clear.

Alexandra also asked me directly if I felt that actions like Rod’s were effective, and I had a waffling answer. Because sometimes they were not, but a couple times they were.  At Oregon State Univerity in Corvallis, the experimental mink farm was shut down about 2 years after the fire and never restarted again, partly (but not entirely) because of the attack. At other universities, the attacks were an excuse to rebuild bigger and better and have more animal experiments than ever. And several times the animals who were liberated were thrown into chaos, injured and eventually killed. So the legacy is mixed. The intention, however, is not.

The most effective action Rod ever did was sinking the whaling boats in Iceland for the Sea Shepherds  in 1986, and that steered us into a discussion of what IS effective right now, which, ironically, is the Sea Shepherds show, “Whale Wars.” The show has terrific ratings, kids everywhere are watching it, and it is making a huge difference in the debate about whaling.

Alexandra and I talked afterward, and she was of the opinion that we need the radical actions in order to push the agenda and to make space for the more conservative or at least well-behaved groups like NRDC or Sierra Club. This has been the argument since the dawn of the 1980s, when then Earth First! and more radical elements came out of the desert and began drinking in public bars. And that is still true now, but the legislative and law enforcement backlash against radical direct action has definitely made life more dangerous, more prone to surveillance and infiltration, and more exposed to conspiracy than ever before. So we’re going to go on talking about this.

The other nice thing about Saturday’s event was that it was taped by C-Span’s “Book TV” program. The tech told me it would air in about two weeks, so it’ll be around the weekend of July 10-12, I’d imagine. But you can look it up on the Book TV schedule page.

From July 8 thru 14, I’ll be on tour from Seattle to San Francisco. See my “Tour” page for details.

More on Rod’s current parole conditions in a separate post.


Bloggy Blah Blah

June 2nd, 2009 by Dean Kuipers 1 comment »

You may have heard it all before, but I’m going to go on saying it anyway. Welcome to Dean’s bloggy hollow, it’s about books and woods and big mountain snow and people who devote themselves to the preservation of wild-er-ness and my friends and Jenkins, the good-natured little dog that ate L.A., and journalism and making newspapers and heroes who are too numerous to count and that makes me lucky. Did you ever read a story by Alice Munroe? I started re-reading the title story in “Runaway” last night and just about collapsed. It’s so good to read it’s too good to finish. I am crippled by fits of sentimentality about a story I’ve only read once before. Too hot, have to go on to read something in which I am slightly less invested.

For about a month I have been reading “Three Cups of Tea,” which I enjoy in little sips and if only for the descriptions of the mountain country inhabited by the Balto near K2 in the Karakoram range in Pakistan. It’s a big book-club kind of book, full of moral uplift about building schools for kids in isolated Islamic strongholds and the like, and it’s got an enviable story and there’s nothing wrong with that except the writing lays a little flat. But I keep going back to it for the mountains and the struggle. Like most books, it’ll take me about two years to finish, but as I’m reading 7 or 8 of them at any one time, it all evens out.

My new book, “Operation Bite Back,” comes out June 23. It’s powered mostly by a driving, undeniable story. It’s impossible not to be swept up by the urgency and commitment of Rod Coronado’s fast-moving campaigns to protect North American wildlife in the early ’90s. I suppose that is exactly what law enforcement is afraid of now, because he’s out of jail and Probation is currently trying to bury him in constrictions. He hasn’t burned anything since 1992, as far as I know. And he has two young kids. I suppose they’ll succeed in bring more attention to his old campaigns that way.

Let’s find out how that all spools out. I look forward to detailing here some of my outings with the book and all the drama, good and bad, that attends its publication. Hope you’ll participate in person.