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Monkeywrenching is a form of sabotage with the aim of creating serious economic damage in order to stop activities which the monkeywrencher believes are undesirable. Though closely associated with the environmental movement, other causes have also been embraced for monkeywrenching. Different monkeywrenchers are governed by different ethical codes, and a number of guides to monkeywrenching have been published for those who might be seeking inspiration.


Why should I be aware of this?

There are opposing views on monkeywrenching among environmental activists. Some feel it’s a valid method of protest, while others believe that it ultimately hurts the environmental movement. Supporters of monkeywrenching may also be split on which types of monkeywrenching are acceptable, with some monkeywrenchers striving to prevent damage to living organisms. Acts of monkeywrenchers who are less circumspect have led to injury or death. As a general rule, it is considered polite to warn companies about potentially dangerous forms of monkeywrenching, such as sabotage to heavy equipment which may result in operator injury

How does this affect me?

Monkeywrenching is not mindless. Monkeywrenchers pick targets are carefully picked for their strategic value. There is a time and a place for everything. Knowing when not to engage in sabotage is equally of value. It is nonviolent, aimed only at inanimate objects. It is one of the last steps in defense of the wild, a deliberate action taken by an Earth defender when almost all other measures have failed.

All about monkeywrenching

Acts of monkey wrenching date back to the late 1800s. By 1918, the term “throw a wrench in the works” was used specifically in the context of industrial sabotage. Activists for better working conditions and pay resorted to damaging corporate machinery to cause a standstill in factory operations. The time required to repair the machines gave workers the time to put forth their requests. Machineries of companies with questionable practices or reputation were also destroyed by the workers to put a stop to their operations.

With the publication of Edward Abbey's novel ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’ in 1975, monkeywrenching came to be connected with environmental activism. The purportedly fictional book documented the adventures of a miscreant crew who were bent on stopping development and expansion in the American West. For many environmental activists, the book became a sort of Bible, romanticizing monkeywrenching and providing practical tips and techniques as well.

Forms of monkeywrenching

There are different forms of monkeywrenching ranging from the benign to the potentially very dangerous. Methods may include efforts to permanently incapacitate machinery and equipment to bring development to a halt, or inflict minor damage in order to buy more time for negotiations and discussions about the issue.

In general monkeywrenching is meant to send a potent message aimed at initiating an active response to oppressive groups and practices in a non-violent and “productive” manner. Revolves around affinity-based groups that are motivated by direct action monkeywrenching is thus different from large-scale protests or strategies of grander political movements, groups, or parties.

90 degrees

Even though the concept of monkey wrenching is meant to be noble, it is important to remember that violent or tragic results could seriously hurt a cause if it garners a negative public response.

The target of monkeywrenching is property, and not the workers or individuals involved. Tree spiking, for instance, can seriously wound or kill a logger, and the damaging of machines and equipment can have equally fatal outcomes. Such action could easily be deemed a “terrorist” act, and may come with extremely serious reprisals from security and judicial forces.


  • What is Monkeywrenching?
  • Monkey-Wrenching
  • Monkeywrenching