Is the extreme action taken by the members of the Monkey Wrench gang justified in the context of the forces that threaten our Western landscape? Or should Abbey’s marauders simply be thrown in jail? Why or why not?
The characters in The Monkey Wrench Gang aim to change the landscape of the American West by trying not to allow the march of industrial progress to destroy nature’s beauty. Despite their idealistic goals, or maybe due to them, the characters set out on an eco-terrorism movement with the hopes of sabotaging potentially damaging industrial projects.
In their own minds they are acting to protect and preserve nature and therefore their acts are righteous and should not be considered illegal. Of course, the government, the police, and the companies that are being sabotaged think otherwise and try to stop their activities before something dangerous or violent occurs. The question of whether or not the characters should be imprisoned for these acts is still on the table to this day with groups such as The Earth Firsters who basically use this book as their training manual and ethical foundation.
Personally, I feel that the actions taken by the characters are intended for a just cause and they are not out to hurt people, even though some of their tactics are not particularly safe. The extremity of their strategy stems from a position of desperation. Their frustration with the lack of results produced by traditional environmental groups such as the Sierra Club leads them to a more radical approach that will have direct results on specific locations.
Instead of standing idly by and having meetings and press conferences to draw attention to their cause, the Monkey Wrench Gang instigated and perpetuated acts of eco-terrorism to physically sabotage and stop the proliferation of industrial projects in nature. For these reasons I do not think they should be incarcerated, rather they should be studied and examined in order to innovate new ideas and strategies for the defense of nature.