Ned Ludd Books published the first two editions, with Abbzug Press publishing a third edition. The book was first published in 1985.
Much of the inspiration for the book, as well as the term "monkeywrenching", came from Edward Abbey's 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. Other inspiration for the book likely came from the 1972 book Ecotage!, which was published by the group Environmental Action and was in turn inspired by the actions of an activist in the Chicago, Illinois area who called himself "The Fox", and engaged in such vigilante actions to protect the environment as plugging smokestacks. Much of the actual content for Ecodefense came from the "Dear Ned Ludd" column in the newsletter of the group Earth First! during the 1980s.
“Tentatively called Ecodefense: A Handbook on the Militant Defense of the Earth, the publication was to be a radical environmental version of William Powell's Anarchist Cookbook. In its final form, brought out by Foreman's own Ned Ludd Books (suitably named after the nineteenth-century British worker who destroyed supposedly labor-saving machinery), Ecodefense: A Field Guide To Monkeywrenching gave practical , detailed instructions on how to decommission bulldozers, pull out survey stakes, spike trees, and generally harass and delay resource industry plans. It was an immediate success; dog eared copies of it could be found in the backpacks of young environmental militants literally throughout the world. This kind of popularity led Oregon's Willamette National Forest supervisor Michael Kerrick to denounce the book in a white paper presented at a congressional hearing, in which he peevishly threatened to 'close the entire [national forest logging] area to unauthorized entry' if the ecotage described in the book took place. As good as his word, Kerrick soon thereafter introduced the controversial and legally questionable policy of closing national forests to the public whenever environmental protests were expected. It is no exaggeration to say, therefore, that Ecodefense changed forever the way public lands policy was made in this country and perhaps even abroad. Ecotage was, as Getty learned, a new factor in making environmental policy.”
Notes and references
- Michael Kerrick, "Ecotage From Our Perspective" (http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Publications/region/6/willamette/chap6.htm)
- Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism And The Unmaking Of Civilization, page 82-83.
- Earth First!
- Earth Liberation Front
- Ecotage! [book]
- Operation Backfire - FBI operation initiated against environmentalists