The term eco-terrorism is a neologism which has been used to describe acts of violence (as in "violence against property"), sabotage and/or property damage which are ostensibly motivated by concern for the natural environment. As a pejorative term, it has also been used to describe acts of nonviolent civil disobedience by environmentalists.
The term is believed to have been coined by Ron Arnold, a founder of the Wise Use movement and author of Ecoterror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature.
Many environmentalists view the use of the term eco-terrorism as a propaganda-driven attempt to associate the use of nonviolent civil disobedience by environmentalists with the more contentious acts of property damage or vandalism, and to link acts of vandalism with notions of terrorism.
Further, some people hold that clearcutting, strip-mining and other destructive Resource extraction activities are true eco-terrorism, battling against such activities is considered by such people to be more akin to self-defense or defense of one's home, than to be terrorism. In many countries, notably the United States, self-defense, or defense of a one's home or a loved one can be held to be a valid legal defence to a charge of a crime. Thus, some people consider vandalism, active resistance, crime or even violence in defense of their ecosystem to be moral, ethical, and legally defensible.
While the term terrorism is in itself politically contentious, formal definitions typically limit its usage to politically motivated acts of violence against civilians. The term eco-terrorism, however, is most often used to describe acts of property damage, such as arson, rather than deliberate acts of violence against humans.
Some, such as Arnold, extend the definition to include any illegal act motivated by a desire to protect the natural environment. Thus, even environmental organisations with a stated commitment to nonviolence have on occasions been labelled "eco-terrorists" by conservative commentators. This definition, in fact, would label any act of civil disobedience as terrorism.
In a model bill called the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, proposed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, an "animal or ecological terrorist organization" is defined as "two or more persons with the primary or incidental purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity… intended to obstruct, impede, or deter any person from participating in a lawful animal activity" or in "mining, foresting, harvesting, gathering, or processing natural resources."
Its usage has also been adopted by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Section, which 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."
The three organisations most commonly labelled as "eco-terrorists" within the United States are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Earth First!. The websites of these organisations, while openly advocating tactics including arson, graffiti and property destruction, publicly disavow harm to humans or animals.
In 2001, the FBI named ELF as the United States’ most serious domestic terrorist threat, with millions of dollars of damage done, and thousands of actions completed, no-one has been harmed to date, and the ALF, ELF and other groups continue to work in code with non-harm to any living beings.
Ecoterrorism in Fiction
- Disinfopedia:Eco-terrorism (http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Eco-terrorism)
- Eco-Violence: The Record (http://web1.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?sid=29)
- Ecoterrorism (http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/429/429lect16.htm): history and description of verious subgroups, with additional links