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2 Answers

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First there is no one response that can/should be taken. Many sorts of things could/should be attempted.

Second, there is no way to know for certain what the most effective action would be without actually doing it.

Unfortunately I'm attempting this answer at a very late date, when the tragedy is already fading from the public consciousness, the well has been "killed" and the oil is sinking to the bottom of the Gulf/ecosystem. But that doesn't mean action still cannot be taken.
by (6.1k points)
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Direct action, according to de Cleyre, would require an end.  What end would this "action" act as a means toward?
If you want to contribute to the ecological recovery of the gulf, you should organize with folks that have put a lot of thought into environmental clean-ups.  Go get a job on a boat or a beach, towing sponges or scrubbing ducks.
If you want to prevent things like this from happening in the future, stop driving a car; find ways to change your lifestyle so that you do not have a need to purchase (or shoplift) goods that have traveled any considerable distance to reach your location; organize within your community to collectively ensure that space exists for people to live in a fashion that perpetuates fewer of the society's more destructive tendencies; offer to teach others how to construct and repair bicycles; start building a new world around yourself, where you have the ability to so.
If you find that above all else you personally need to go produce a ruckus in the street to address your angst, by all means, do so, but I would assure you that big oil will remain apathetic to your concerns.

I would define "response" as reaction, not action.
by (950 points)
Anarchist direct action is usually understood to mean actions taken outside of normal/acceptable channels.  While eliminating your need for a car, taking a job cleaning up the spill, etc. might be admirable and useful things, they are not anarchist direct action and they will not solve the problem.  The only way to solve the problem is to utterly destroy the oil companies.  Since I haven't done that, I don't have any advice about how to do it, but I'm guessing street demonstrations are not going to be a key tactic.
I will admit to using a poor choice of words by suggesting that one, "get a job."  Perhaps I can phrase that idea in a more relevant fashion.  Numerous residents of the area surrounding the Gulf have directly acted in pursuit of restoring the physical environment on which their livelihoods depend.  They have made a considerable effort towards extracting spilled oil from their immediate areas.  Many have worked in coordination with individuals or organizations that have experience or supplies to contribute to the cause; I believe some people tend to refer to that as solidarity.  This supports my position that normal channels do not lack value simply due to their popularization.  Cooperating with those who have experience and knowledge that might apply to a situation instead of approaching the scene with a much more limited perspective seems quite reasonable to me.

I find your definition of direct action incomplete, even ill-suited to the term.  Does the term "direct" imply an illicit nature or simply one of expedience and self-reliance?  Why objectify an "illegal" course of action over a "legal" one?  How does such thinking seem any more favorable than its inverse?  Furthermore, you requested only a means of "response."  Even with your comment, you have failed to clearly state a desired end.  I have a hard time understanding how one could directly act without intention, to which I consider a goal quite indispensable.  If you truly aim to "utterly destroy the oil companies," as you stated, then you have created for yourself a rather unapproachable task.  The oil companies have the implicit backing of every individual that drives or depends on non-localized food and other products, as evidenced by the existence of a market.  The protection they receive from military and police forces serves as further evidence of the degree of this support.  You could do all the damage you wanted to an oil rig and in no way reduce the demand for energy that society does not yet have the resources to meet in another way.  If we assert that the occasional environmental accident occurs as an externality of big oil, we need to understand that big oil resulted as an externality of expansion, and that we support it through

Perhaps actions intended to re-localize our lifestyles have less appeal than more destructive alternatives because they at first seem less subversive.  Have you ever been involved in the development of a collectively "owned" and operated space?  Collectivism often gets undermined when individuals choose to use property law to throw their weight around in environments that had previously seemed egalitarian; enforced property law alone can present serious obstacles to creating, within "normal" channels, socio-economic environments that allow for individuals to lead significantly different lifestyles.  Lobbying by big ag will result in legislation that will make it harder and harder to grow food legally, even for not-for-profit purposes, over the coming years.  At least within the United States, building code does not allow for the construction of living spaces from ecologically sound materials unless purchased through industry-regulated channels.  Of course, the relevant permits carry hefty price tags of their own to match the cost of such materials.  The list goes on.  If we refuse to rethink the environments we establish around ourselves, or simply give in to the systems presented to us, then we cannot blame big oil for enabling our own negligence.
"Anarchist direct action is usually understood to mean actions taken outside of normal/acceptable channels. "

not to be too persnickety or anything, but i just want to argue for a clear understanding of direct action, which is not (as i understand it) about comparing it to "normal" or "acceptable" (concepts full of ressentiment, no?), but about doing for ourselves, without recourse to representation or a higher authority. this is perhaps what asker is alluding to, but since this is a 101 site, i want it to be clear.

thanks for your time.
Dot, I think that's fair, although I would still want to limit it further than just 'doing for ourselves without recourse to representation or a higher authority.'  I didn't ask permission from anyone to make coffee a minute ago, but I don't consider that direct action exactly.

blark, I don't really want to argue about tactics with you. I'm sure whatever you're working on is very valuable.
"What is the best most effective immediate direct action that North American anarchists can take in response to the unfolding ecological nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico?"
I beg your pardon.  Haven given it a second look, I must admit that this sounds to me like a question relating specifically to praxis.  Also, though I appreciate your concern for my fragile ego, I hoped to criticize the provided definition of "direct action" in order to consider not actual tactics but meta-tactics, if you will.

Would you agree, at least in part, with a definition of "direct action" insofar as it equates its "direct" quality with the act of actually meeting a goal?  It seems to me that the blatantly objective nature of the original question implies such an end but fails to specify one.  Without an end in mind, how can one objectively consider the effectiveness of one course of action over that of another?