Eco-terrorism

Eco-terrorism is an act of violence committed in support of ecological or environmental causes, against people or property.[1][2]

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation defines eco-terrorism as "...the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature."[3] The FBI credited eco-terrorists with US$200 million in property damage between 2003 and 2008. A majority of states in the US have introduced laws aimed at penalizing eco-terrorism.[4]

Eco-terrorism is a form of radical environmentalism that arose out of the same school of thought that brought about deep ecology, ecofeminism, social ecology, and bioregionalism.[5] "Eco-terrorism" is a controversial term.[6]

Some "eco-terrorists" are people fighting to preserve their environment with the belief that they are preserving their existence. Examples of such "ecoterrorists" include tribal ethnic minorities such as the Waorani.[7]

Eco Terrorism, Civil disobedience and sabotage

Eco-terrorism is often defined as the use of violence carried out to further environmental policy change. Eco Terrorists are willing to inflict emotional and physical distress on their victims if they believe it will further their environmental goals. This more radical version of environmental action is illegal, as compared to it's more moderate forerunner of Eco-activism which is not illegal and would be classified as a form of Civil Disobedience and uses protests, sit ins and other civil actions to effect environmental change. Eco Terrorism can also include sabotage in the name of the environment which is illegal as this includes crimes against property which could lead to harm to humans. Noting that in the United States, the FBI's definition of terrorism includes acts of violence against property, which makes most acts of sabotage fall in the realm of domestic terrorism.[8]

Sabotage involves destroying, or threatening to destroy, property, and in this case is also known as monkeywrenching[5] or ecotage.[9] Many acts of sabotage involve the damage of equipment and unmanned facilities using arson. [10]

Philosophy

The thought behind eco-terrorism rises from the radical environmentalism movement, which gained currency during the 1960s.[5] Ideas that arose from radical environmentalism are "based on the belief that capitalism, patriarchal society, and the industrial revolution and its subsequent innovations were responsible for the despoliation of nature".[5] Radical environmentalism is also characterized by the belief that human society is responsible for the depletion of the environment and, if current society is left unchecked, will lead to the ultimate complete degradation of the environment.[11]

Like deep ecologists, eco-terrorists subscribe to the idea of biocentrism, which is described as "a belief that human beings are just an ordinary member of the biological community" and that all living things should have rights and deserve protection under the law.[12] Some eco-terrorists are motivated by other aspects of deep ecology, like the goal to return the environment to its "natural", i.e., pre-industrial, state.[13]

Examples of tactics

There are a wide variety of tactics used by eco-terrorists and groups associated with eco-terrorism. Examples include:

  • Tree spiking is a common tactic that was first used by members of Earth First! in 1984. Tree spiking involves hammering a small spike into the trunk of a tree that may be logged with the intention of damaging the chainsaw or mill blades and may seriously injure the logger. Only one case of serious injury has been widely reported.[5]
  • Arson is a tactic most associated with recent activity in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The ELF has been attributed with arsons of sites such as housing developments, SUV dealerships, and chain stores.[5] Arson kites, burning tires to create smoke, and other acts of eco terrorism were used by Hamas and Palestinians participating in the Great Return March to burn Israeli land, farms and kibutzes.[14]
  • Bombing, while this tactic is rare, on some occasions explosives have been used by eco-terrorists. For example, the Superphénix construction site was attacked with anti-tank rockets (RPG-7).[15]
  • Monkeywrenching is a tactic popularized by Edward Abbey in his book The Monkey Wrench Gang[16] that involves sabotaging equipment that is environmentally damaging.

Individuals accused or convicted

Groups accused

Organizations accused of eco-terrorism are generally grassroots organizations, do not have a hierarchal structure, and typically favor direct action approaches to their goals.[12]

Stefan Leader characterizes these groups, namely ELF, with having "leaderless resistance" which he describes as "a technique by which terrorist groups can carry out violent acts while reducing the risk of infiltration by law enforcement elements. The basic principle of leaderless resistance is that there is no centralized authority or chain-of-command."[13] Essentially this consists of independent cells which operate autonomously, sharing goals, but having no central leaders or formal organizational structure. Those who wish to join are typically encouraged to start their own cell, rather than seek out other members and jeopardize their secrecy.[13]

Organizations in the United States

Organizations that have been accused of eco-terrorism in the United States include the Animal Liberation Front (ALF),[3] the Earth Liberation Front (ELF),[3] Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Earth First!,[5] The Coalition to Save the Preserves, and the Hardesty Avengers.[3][23] In 2010, the FBI was criticized in U.S. Justice Department reports for unjustified surveillance (and placement on the Terrorism Watchlist) between 2001 and 2006 of members of animal-rights groups such as Greenpeace and PETA.[24]

In a 2002 testimony to the US Congress, an FBI official mentioned the actions of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the context of eco-terrorism.[3] The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society intervenes against whaling, seal hunting, and fishing operations with direct action tactics. In 1986, the group caused nearly US$1.8 million in damage to equipment used by Icelandic whalers.[5] In 1992, they sabotaged two Japanese ships that were drift-net fishing for squid by cutting their nets and throwing stink bombs on board the boats.[12]

Inspired by Edward Abbey, Earth First! began in 1980. Although the group has been credited with becoming more mainstream, its use of tree spiking during campaigns has been associated with the origins of eco-terrorism.[5][25] In 1990, Earth First! organizers Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were injured when a motion-detecting pipe bomb detonated beneath Bari's driver seat. Authorities alleged that the bomb was being transported and accidentally detonated. The pair sued investigators, alleging false arrest, illegal search, slanderous statements and conspiracy. In 2002, a jury found that FBI agents and Oakland police officers violated constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unlawful searches of Earth First! organizers.[26]

The Earth Liberation Front, founded in 1992, joined with the Animal Liberation Front, which had its beginnings in England in 1979.[5] They have been connected primarily with arson but claim that they work to harm neither human nor animal.[5] A recent example of ELF arson was the March 2008 "torching of luxury homes in the swank Seattle suburb of Woodinville".[27] A banner left at the scene claimed the housing development was not green as advertised, and was signed ELF.[28] In September 2009 ELF claimed responsibility for the destruction of two radio towers in Seattle.[29] The FBI in 2001 named the ELF as "one of the most active extremist elements in the United States", and a "terrorist threat."[3] The Coalition to Save the Preserves was mentioned in FBI testimony as a group that was responsible for a series of arsons in Arizona. Using similar tactics to the ELF, they have caused more than US$5 million in damages.[3]

Media reports have tied Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, to environmental activists, and say that the 23 injuries and three deaths through letter-bombs were the acts of an independent eco-terrorist. Among those making such accusations were ABC, The New York Times, Time magazine, and USA Today.[30]

A number of "local" organizations have also been indicted under US Federal laws related to eco-terrorism. These include, among others, the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. Another example is the Hardesty Avengers who spiked trees in the Hardesty Mountains in Willamette National Forest in 1984.[23]

In 2008 the Federal Bureau of Investigation said eco-terrorists represented "one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today" citing the sheer volume of their crimes (over 2,000 since 1979); the huge economic impact (losses of more than US$110 million since 1979); the wide range of victims (from international corporations to lumber companies to animal testing facilities to genetic research firms); and their increasingly violent rhetoric and tactics (one recent communiqué sent to a California product testing company said: "You might be able to protect your buildings, but can you protect the homes of every employee?").[31]

The National Animal Interest Alliance in their animal rights extremism archives compiled a comprehensive list of major animal rights extremist and eco-criminal acts of terrorism since 1983.[32]

US governmental response

Spiking trees became a federal offense in the United States when it was added to the Drug Act in 1988.[33]

Under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 it became a federal crime to "cause more than $10,000 in damage while engaged in "physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise by intentionally stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of any property […] used by the animal enterprise."[5] In 2006, this was updated and renamed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act by the 109th congress.[34] The updated act included causing personal harm and the losses incurred on "secondary targets" as well as adding to the penalties for these crimes.

In 2003, a conservative legislative lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), proposed the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" which defined an "animal rights or ecological terrorist organization"[31] as "two or more persons organized for the purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources."[35] The legislation was not enacted.

The FBI has stated that "since 2005…investigations have resulted in indictments against 30 individuals." In 2006, an FBI case labeled "Operation Backfire" brought charges of domestic terrorism to eleven people associated with the ELF and ALF. "The indictment includes charges related to arson, conspiracy, use of destructive devices, and destruction of an energy facility."[36] Operation Backfire was a result of the 1998 burning of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado by the group, "The Family." The incident resulted in $26 million in damages. The FBI joined together with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to bring justice to the individuals and to any future eco-terrorist groups.[37]

However, the Bush Justice Department, including the FBI, was criticized in 2010 for improper investigations and prosecutions of left-leaning US protest groups such as Greenpeace. The Washington Post reported that the "FBI improperly opened and extended investigations of some U.S. activist groups and put members of an environmental advocacy organization on a terrorist watch list, even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience, the Justice Department said Monday."[38]

A report, filed by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, found the FBI to be not guilty of the most serious charge — according to the Post — that "agents targeted domestic groups based on their exercise of First Amendment rights." The investigation was conducted in response to allegations that the FBI had targeted groups on such grounds during the Bush Administration. The Post has more:

"But the report cited what it called other "troubling" FBI practices in its monitoring of domestic groups in the years between the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and 2006. In some cases, Fine said, agents began investigations of people affiliated with activist groups for 'factually weak' reasons and 'without adequate basis' and improperly kept information about activist groups in its files. Among the groups monitored were the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh peace group; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; and Greenpeace USA. Activists affiliated with Greenpeace were improperly put on a terrorist watch list, the report said.[38]

In 2008, Eric McDavid was convicted of plotting to attack several targets including a fish hatchery, a dam, power stations, and cell phone towers. An undercover FBI agent exposed the plan. In addition to McDavid, two others were also convicted.[39] On March 6, 2008 Eric McDavid was sentenced to 20 years in prison for "conspiracy to damage or destroy property by fire and explosive."[40] United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott stated: "Today's severe punishment of nearly 20 years in federal prison should serve as a cautionary tale to those who would conspire to commit life-threatening acts in the name of their extremist views."[40]

History

The term ecoterrorism wasn't coined until the 1960s however, the history of ecoterrorism precedes. Although not directly called ecoterrorism there have been moments in history of people using terror to protect or defend the environment. It can be seen in the War of Desmoiselles, or War of the Maidens. The War of the Demoiselles was a series of peasant revolts in response to the new forest codes implemented by the French government in 1827.[41] In May 1829 groups of peasant men dressed in women's clothes and terrorized forest guards and charcoal-makers who they felt had wrongfully taken the land to exploit it. The revolts persisted for four years until May 1832.

This particular instance is considered an act of eco-terrorism due to the fact that the peasants used tactics similar to modern day eco-terrorist groups. The peasants of Ariege masked their identities and committed acts of terror. They specifically targeted government officials who infringed on the rights of the forest. However, this is considered a pre-history rather than an actual act of eco-terrorism due to the fact that the peasants weren’t environmentalist. The peasants committed their acts to protect the environment because they felt they had a claim to it due to it being their main source of income and way of life for generations.

Instances of pre-ecoterrorism can also be found in the age of colonialism and imperialism. Native and indigenous people didn’t have the same view on land as property that Europeans did. When the Europeans colonized other foreign lands they believed that the natives were not using the land properly. Land was something that was meant to be profited and capitalized off of. Oftentimes natives would engage in warfare to protect their land. This is similar to the way that modern day environmentalists fight to protect land from major corporations aiming to deforest land to build factories. An example of Europeans infringing on the rights of natives can be found in the colonial administration of Algeria. When the French colonized Algeria they took the land from natives because they believed they were not using it properly. Claiming that their nomadic lifestyle as damaging to the environment in order to justify their usurping of the land. However, the natives of Algeria engaged in battles in order to try and keep their land and lifestyle.[42]

See also

References

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  2. ^ "Ecoterrorism". Merriam-webster.com. 2010-08-13. Archived from the original on 2010-04-11. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
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  23. ^ a b Wyant, Dan. "Spike Hunt is Battling a Deadline." The Register-Guard [Eugene, Oregon] 1984-10-28
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  42. ^ Stacey Renee Davis (2002). "Turning French Convicts into Colonists: The Second Empire's Political Prisoners in Algeria, 1852-1858". French Colonial History. 2 (1): 93–113. doi:10.1353/fch.2011.0013. ISSN 1543-7787.

Further reading

Antarctica (novel)

Antarctica (1997) is a science fiction novel by American writer Kim Stanley Robinson. It deals with a variety of characters living at or visiting an Antarctic research station. It incorporates many of Robinson's common themes, including scientific process and the importance of environmental protection.

Ark Angel

Ark Angel is the sixth book in the Alex Rider series written by British author Anthony Horowitz. The novel is a spy thriller which follows the attempt by the title character, Alex Rider, to foil the plot of a Russian billionaire.

The book was released in the United Kingdom on April 1, 2005 and in the United States on April 20, 2006. Initial reviews of the book were positive.

CHERUB

CHERUB () is a series of young adult spy novels written by English author Robert Muchamore, focusing around a division of the British Security Service called CHERUB, which employs children, predominantly orphans, under the age of 17, as intelligence agents.Initially, the series follows James Choke, better known as James Adams (his adopted name at CHERUB), as he enters CHERUB and performs various missions. However, the focus later expands to other characters, such as James' sister Lauren and several other characters who work alongside him and in separate missions. The initial series of twelve novels runs from the recruitment of Adams to his retirement from CHERUB at age seventeen. The second series of five novels, Aramov, follows Ryan Sharma, another CHERUB agent; James Adams is re-introduced into the series as a CHERUB staff member.

Muchamore also wrote a seven-part series called Henderson's Boys, which takes place during World War II and explains how CHERUB was created, following the path of a twelve-year-old French orphan who meets Charles Henderson and shows him how much help children can be to win the war. Henderson, following this, creates a small unit of children to be trained in espionage.

The series has achieved great critical success. Christopher Middleton of The Times called the series "convincing" and praised the way it allows readers to "grow up with the characters." After release in the United Kingdom, the novels have been released in the US, New Zealand, and Australia, and translated into several languages including Polish, French, Danish, Spanish, Russian, Czech, Norwegian and Portuguese. On his website, Muchamore states that over 8 million copies have now been sold. A film adaptation was hinted at in 2009, but no further information was ever given. In 2018, Sony announced they were developing a TV series based on the CHERUB books.

Darren Thurston

Darren Todd Thurston (born c. 1970) is a Canadian former animal rights activist.

In July 2006, Thurston pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy and related arson charges that occurred from 1996 through 2001 in Oregon and four other U.S. states, and which were claimed in the name of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The FBI arrested Thurston and 10 other members of a west coast-based animal rights and environmentalist organization that the FBI and media called "The Family." The arrests were made as part of the FBI's Operation Backfire.Thurston was sentenced in May 2007 to 37 months in prison in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation.

Eco-terrorism in fiction

Eco-terrorism has been a topic of fictional books, television programmes and films.

Ecotage

Ecotage (a portmanteau of the "eco-" prefix and "sabotage") is direct action by extreme environmentalist groups (such as Earth First!) in the Western world, involving destructive or obstructive behavior designed to publicize or harass the people believed to be causing environmental damage.

Environmental Life Force

Environmental Life Force (ELF), also known as the Original ELF, was the first radical environmental group in 1977 to use explosive and incendiary devices to advance their agenda.

First Reformed

First Reformed is a 2017 American drama film written and directed by Paul Schrader. It stars Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, and Cedric the Entertainer (credited as Cedric Kyles), and follows a Protestant minister faced with questions of faith and morality while serving as pastor of a dwindling historical church.

First Reformed was screened at the 74th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2017, and was released in the United States on May 18, 2018, by A24. The film was acclaimed by critics, who gave specific praise to Hawke's performance and Schrader's screenplay and direction. The film was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the Top 10 Films of 2018. At the Independent Spirit Awards, the film received nominations for Best Film, Best Male Lead (Hawke), Best Director and Best Screenplay, while Schrader's screenplay was also nominated for an Academy Award, the first of his career.

Flush (novel)

Flush is a young adult novel by Carl Hiaasen first published in 2005, and set in Hiaasen's native Florida. It is his second young adult novel, after Hoot. The plot is similar to that of Hoot but it doesn't have the same cast and is not a continuation/sequel. The plot centers around Noah Underwood, a boy whose father enlists his help to catch a repeat environmental offender in the act. Noah Underwood’s Dad failed to prove that the Coral Queen was dumping their waste in Thunder Beach. So Noah and his sister Abbey will find a way to tell the community about the Coral Queen's secret.

Hoot (novel)

Hoot is a 2002 mystery/suspense novel, recommended for ages 9-12, by Carl Hiaasen. The setting takes place in Florida, where new arrival Roy makes two oddball friends and a bad enemy, and joins an effort to stop construction of a pancake house which would destroy a colony of burrowing owls who live on the site. The book won a Newbery Honor award in 2003.

Hunt Saboteurs Association

The Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) is an organisation that uses direct action to stop fox hunting. The HSA have been using the same basic tactics since their inception in 1963, the underlying principle being to disrupt a day's hunting.

Operation Backfire (FBI)

Operation Backfire is a multi-agency criminal investigation, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), into destructive acts in the name of animal rights and environmental causes in the United States described as eco-terrorism by the FBI. The operation resulted in convictions and imprisonment of a number of domestic terrorists, many of which were members of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front.

Radical environmentalism

Radical environmentalism is a grassroots branch of the larger environmental movement that emerged from an ecocentrism-based frustration with the co-option of mainstream environmentalism. It is the extremist ideology behind the radical environmental movement.

Rod Coronado

Rodney Adam Coronado (born July 3, 1966) is a Native American (Pascua Yaqui) eco-anarchist and animal rights activist. He is an advocate and former activist for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and a spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front. He was a crew member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a member of the editorial collective of the Earth First! Journal. Coronado was jailed in 1995 in connection with an arson attack on research facilities at Michigan State University, which caused $125,000 worth of damage and destroyed 32 years of research data.

In 2006, while imprisoned for felony conspiracy and awaiting trial on further charges, Coronado expressed a change in his personal philosophy inspired by fatherhood. In an open letter, he wrote, "Don't ask me how to burn down a building. Ask me how to grow watermelons or how to explain nature to a child," explaining that he wants to be remembered, not as a "man of destruction but [as] a human believer in peace and love for all." He was released on probation in December 2008, but was imprisoned again for four months in August 2010 for accepting a "friend request" on Facebook from an environmental activist, Mike Roselle, which was deemed a violation of his probation.

Sandra Good

Sandra Collins Good (born February 20, 1944) is a long-time member of the Manson Family and a close friend of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. Good's Manson Family nickname is "Blue", which was given to her by Charles Manson to represent clean air and water.

SpongeBob's Last Stand

"SpongeBob's Last Stand" is the eighth episode of the seventh season and the 134th overall episode of the American animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. It originally aired on Nickelodeon in the United States on April 22, 2010, in celebration of Earth Day.

The series follows the adventures and endeavors of the title character and his various friends in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. In this episode, SpongeBob and Patrick protest the construction of a highway that would destroy Jellyfish Fields.

The episode was written by Aaron Springer, Steven Banks, and Derek Iversen, and the animation was directed by Andrew Overtoom and Tom Yasumi. Upon release, the episode met positive reviews. On March 16, 2010, the episode became available on DVD.

The Recruit (novel)

The Recruit is the first novel in the CHERUB series, written by Robert Muchamore. It introduces most of the main characters, such as James Adams (formerly Choke), Lauren Adams (formerly Onions), Kyle Blueman, and Kerry Chang. It was released in the United Kingdom by Hodder Children's Books on 30 April 2004, and by Simon Pulse in the United States on 30 August 2005.

Tree spiking

Tree spiking involves hammering a metal rod, nail, or other material into a tree trunk, either inserting it at the base of the trunk where a logger might be expected to cut into the tree, or higher up where it would affect the sawmill later processing the wood. It is used to prevent logging by risking damage to saws, in the forest or at the mill, if the tree is cut. The spike reduces the commercial value of the wood by causing discoloration, thereby reducing the economic viability of logging in the long term, without threatening the life of the tree.

It is believed that tree spiking originated in timber logging labor disputes in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in the late 19th century. It came to prominence as a contentious tactic within unconventional environmentalist circles during the 1980s, after it was advocated by Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman in his book Ecodefense. In the book, he discusses how to do it and how to avoid risks to the activist and the logger.

In 1987, California mill worker George Alexander was seriously injured when the bandsaw he was operating hit an 11-inch spike embedded in a 12-inch trunk with a worn-out blade he had earlier requested to be replaced. This event led the leader of Earth First! to denounce tree spiking.Other activists were led to either reject this form of sabotage entirely, or take some precautions, such as putting warning signs in the area where the trees are being spiked. Tree spiking is labeled as eco-terrorism by logging advocates who claim it is potentially dangerous to loggers or mill-workers, although only this one injury resulting from tree spiking has been reported.

University of Washington firebombing incident

The University of Washington firebombing incident was an arson which took place in the early morning hours of May 21, 2001 when a firebomb was set off at Merrill Hall, a part of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture, causing an estimated $1.5 to $4.1 million in damages. By 2012 four of five accused conspirators behind the attack admitted their guilt in plea bargains. A fifth committed suicide in federal detention while awaiting trial.

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