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
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 (www.aynrand.org) promotes
the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author
Shrugged and The Fountainhead.