By Elan Journo (Capitalism Magazine, April 16, 2002)
For years Islamic terrorists attacked Americans throughout the world, and we failed to heed the warning signs: the bombings of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, of our embassies in Africa in 1998, of the USS Cole in 2000, of the World Trade Center in 1993. This past Sept. 11 they provided undeniable evidence of their destructive hatred. As we combat them abroad, however, we must recognize the deadly threat posed by another homegrown source--one that since 1996 has engaged in over 600 attacks and inflicted more than $40 million in property damage. That growing danger is: environmental terrorism.
With Earth Day looming, we ought to reflect on the scale of the danger we face--and the ideology behind that menace.
Throughout America, underground cells of eco-terrorists have been waging a campaign of tree-spiking, industrial sabotage, arson and bombing. The Earth Liberation Front alone was responsible for more than 130 attacks last year. Of those, the costliest--at research labs in New Mexico, Washington and Michigan--resulted in about $7 million of damage.
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."
They 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. 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 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, continue 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 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 resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, focusing on foreign policy. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
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