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The mounting threat of Eco-Terrorism

by Elan Journo

As we combat Islamic terrorism abroad, we must recognize the deadly threat posed by a homegrown source—one that since 1997 has been responsible for over 600 attacks and has inflicted more than $100 million in property damage.


The attacks have become bolder, fiercer: in August, a 206-unit apartment complex near San Diego was firebombed, resulting in $50 million in damage. And just days ago, also in San Diego, four upscale homes under construction were torched.

This growing danger is: environmental terrorism. It is time that we reflect on the scale of the danger we face—and the ideology behind that menace.

From Alabama to Michigan, from Pennsylvania to California, underground cells of eco-terrorists have been waging a campaign of tree spiking, industrial sabotage, arson, and bombing.
Last year the most prominent eco-terrorist group, the Earth Liberation Front, proudly claimed responsibility for more than 130 attacks. What is their goal? According to the ELF, our Westernized way of life “comes at the expense of . . . the natural environment.” By seeking a safer, longer, happier life—by seeking more than a bare, primitive subsistence—mankind, they say, is guilty of crimes against nature.

Accordingly, they wish “to inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment”—hoping eventually “to speed up the collapse of industry.”
Eco-terrorists have consistently targeted these “exploiters”—from timber companies, to land developers, to science researchers. In the most notorious of their actions, in Vail, Colorado, in 1998, the ELF burned down part of a ski resort, causing $12 million in property damage. The attack was mounted, the group said, on behalf of the wildlife whose habitat was being “trespassed” upon.

Last year, nine new homes in Phoenix were firebombed because they were deemed, by eco-terrorists, to be encroaching on . . . the natural desert. Two years ago, to protest the existence of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British animal-research lab, “animal-liberationist” goons blew up several cars belonging to the firm’s employees and severely beat the company’s managing director with baseball bats.

These militants are alarmingly brazen. Gloating in a tone redolent of Osama bin Laden’s post-Sept. 11 videos, the ELF has published a meticulous, 47-page report of its self-described illegal activities. The attacks are listed by region, date, tactics used, and damage caused. There are even mock awards for the “most impressive” attacks and “most vehicles damaged in a single action.” To spur further violence, the group’s Web site offers a free illustrated manual on “Setting Fires With Electrical Timers” (along with advice on what to do if an FBI agent comes knocking).
Yet, astonishingly, little has been done to stop the eco-terrorists. Some have been caught and even brought before grand juries, but few have been punished. In February 2002 the House Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on eco-terrorism, but nothing came of it: the main witness, an ELF spokesman, refused to answer most of the questions.

Meanwhile, the attacks, both large and small, continued last year at an average pace of one every four days.

These people are not mere vandals. They declare that they do not “consider the destruction of property . . . to be committing violence” if done for the sake of nature. It is just a matter of time before they extend their rabid rationalizations to the killing of human beings. The eco-terrorists hate the system of capitalism and industrialization because it leads us, properly, to regard nature as only a means to satisfy man’s wishes. They are driven by an ideology that regards human life as dispensable whenever it impedes their goal of keeping nature untouched. With every dam he constructs, every house he erects, and every shovelful of soil he removes, man is denounced for “raping the earth” and “murdering the eco-system.” The eco-terrorists want to stop all such activities—by whatever means necessary.

Our inaction in the face of Islamic terrorists prior to Sept. 11 helped to embolden them; our inaction in the face of eco-terrorism is doing the same. We dare not wait for eco-terrorists, motivated by their own nihilistic ideology, to mount their own Sept. 11. They must be stopped by the force of government, now.

Elan Journo is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute ( promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.


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