At what point does activism become terrorism?
By Kacey Deamer
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines eco-terrorism as the “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.”
In 1980, the group Earth First! took activism to a new level when members would spike trees—the practice of hammering a nail into a tree set to be cut down, which can severely wound loggers. When Earth First! became more mainstream, some members grew frustrated and branched off, forming a new group to engage in more violent, direct action to fight against environmental degradation. They became the most well-known group linked to eco-terror in the U.S., the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).
ELF has taken a variety of criminal actions since its founding; however publicity of these events was minor until the late 1990s. From arson to bombings, ELF has really packed a punch in its efforts to protect the environment from injustices.
ELF continued to terrorize the nation with more arson and bombing events through 2006. The organization has been eerily quiet these past four years. Perhaps they realized that extremism is not a solution to the world’s problem. Perhaps they simply lost their backing. Perhaps they realized that a line had been crossed.
As the battle for the planet’s future continues, it is likely that ELF will rejoin the fight. The members’ mentality is something that cannot be altered by an FBI investigation or negative publicity.
In an interview with National Geographic, Leslie James Pickering, a spokesperson for ELF, discussed the organization’s efforts. He said, “[We’re] defending the natural elements of the Earth that we all need to survive. Without these, we all die, we all perish. I’m representing a group that is fighting in self-defense, for preservation of our species, all species of life on Earth.”