Ecoterrorism (also known as "monkeywrenching"' to many of its practitioners) is the act of destruction of infrastructure and equipment involved in industrial or scientific activities perceived to be unnecessarily damaging to the environment. Most people identified as ecoterrorists tend to be leftist, often closely associated with the animal rights and hard green movements, and they generally target objects and sites rather than people, with the objective of causing economic rather than human damage.
The term is usually associated with (and correctly used to refer to) two groups, the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. It is also sometimes erroneously linked to the Unabomber, though his primitivism was chiefly rooted in human psychology, with only passing reference to ecological concerns. However, anti-environmentalists also use the label as a snarl word for a variety of other groups they don't like, such as PETA, Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Earth First!, and the Rainforest Action Network, among others. It is unclear to what extent there is an actual epidemic of ecoterrorism, as opposed to much of it being a media-driven moral panic.
The term itself is a neologism invented by anti-environmentalist activists who felt the term "monkeywrenching" was too soft or had good connotations. Furthermore, "monkeywrenching" was associated with nonviolent vandalism such as pulling up survey stakes, and with direct action protests such as tree sitting, and a harder term was needed for things like arson and bombings. However, it should be noted that the term's adoption by anti-environmentalists was intended to blur the distinction between the two, not clarify it.
Known ecoterrorism tactics include:
- Sabotaging lab equipment.
- Burning or bombing laboratories, production facilities, and construction sites.
- Driving spikes into trees to prevent them from being logged safely.
- Releasing caged animals. This is generally considered highly counterproductive for many reasons — for example, some become invasive species.
As a general rule, ecoterrorism is not widely supported by rationalists, who view it as a dangerous, overly-emotional response enacted with no consideration of the consequences. Regardless of whether the activity or business being targeted is operating ethically, it is highly disruptive to scientific research and a potentially serious danger to the environment in and of itself.
- Ecotage!, Sam Love and David Obst, eds., 1972, Pocket Books. A collection of ideas for sabotage sent in to the group Environmental Action and published as a book, for "fun" of course. The submissions are of wildly varying quality and tend toward sunday school environmentalism. A particularly galling facepalm moment is the suggestion to surrepitiously plant invasive shrubs around junkyards to hide their view from the road. Because of course the fact that you can see the junkyard from the road is the environmental problem.
- The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey, 1975. McGraw-Hill College. The granddaddy of and to date the only classic of the genre. A fun romp through the Southwestern U.S. sabotaging developers. The only real act of terrorism in it is when they bomb a railroad.
- Ecotopia Emerging, Ernest Callenbach, 1981. Banyan Tree Books/Bantam. A group of elderly terminal cancer victims bombs chemical plants and sprays herbicide over corporate pool parties to protest carcinogens; an underground cell group makes homemade nukes to plant in east coast cities and force secession. Thus will a new ecological utopia on the west coast be born. A prequel to the much more mellow 1975 Ecotopia, which doesn't contain any terrorism.
- Rage and Reason, Michael Tobias, 2001. AK Press. Animal rights revenge-fantasy novel about terrorism against animal abusers. Violent and gory on the level of The Turner Diaries, sort of made even worse by a surprising amount of misogyny.
- State of Fear, Michael Crichton, 2004. HarperCollins. Mainstream enviros resort to terrorism to cause deliberate natural disasters in the hope of scaring the public about the environment. Novel is mostly a vehicle for Crichton's global warming denialism.
These are all mostly incoherent, mostly low budget, and mostly not worth watching unless you're a connisseur of bad movies.
- Choke Canyon - 1986. Evil corporation tries dumping nuclear waste in the desert where a scientist is doing research on alternative energy. Scientist fights back by blowing up buildings, kidnapping the daughter of the corporation head, and flying a container of nuclear waste to Salt Lake City. Nowhere near as good as it sounds, it has Bad Action Movie From 1986 written all over it. Don't miss the mainframe computer and plasma ball.
- Indio - 1989. A half-Native American, ex-special forces veteran (sounds familiar?) saves the rainforest from the evil corporation by waging a one-man guerrilla war in the jungle.
- On Deadly Ground - 1994. A half-Native American, ex-special forces...oh here we go again...oil field worker played by Steven Seagal turns against his old employer and shoots and blows up a lot of stuff after he finds out they are polluting the environment. How much pollution was released by all those explosions, he didn't say. Seagal mainly succeeded in nearly sabotaging his film career with this one. Don't miss the "vision quest", and the 10 minute sermon at the end.
- Forest Warrior - 1996. Chuck Norris as some kind of shape-shifting forest mystic who leads children to spike roads in order to stop the evil corporation from logging. Why old Chucky boy needed the kids' help to save his forest home is a mystery, since he can turn into an eagle or bear at will anyway. Don't miss Chuck the flying eagle suddenly turn back into Chuck the human just in time to karate chop a logger with his foot.