Quick Hits Video

Should we be worried about ecoterrorism?

What if climate activists turn to terrorism? Is this on the horizon? Borealis weighs on on the reality of this form of violent extremism.

When we read and hear about terrorism where does your mind go? Most probably to the world of Islamist terrorism/jihadism since the vast majority of attacks can be traced to them. What about environmental terrorism? Is this on the horizon?

Borealis weighs on on the reality of this form of violent extremism.

What if climate activists turn to terrorism?

Protesters against climate change have not resorted to terrorism to advance their cause. This scenario from 2031 imagines what would happen if they did.

The first the world heard of the self-styled Earth Defence Army (eda) was in February 2028, when the Jamnagar oil refinery in Gujarat, the world’s largest, ground to a halt after a crippling cyber-attack. In a video manifesto the eda claimed responsibility for the attack, providing detailed evidence of its involvement. The group’s masked leaders warned that oil companies around the world would face similar attacks—as would banks and investors associated with them. “The planet cannot fight back,” one eda member declared, “so we have no choice but to fight back on its behalf.”

Read What if climate activists turn to terrorism? on The Economist

More about ‘ecoterrorism’

    By Phil Gurski

    Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

    One reply on “Should we be worried about ecoterrorism?”

    Hi Phil
    I am really glad you raised this. Indulge me. COVID keeps me indoors; and there is only so much Netflix and so many cat videos one can watch.
    There are two reasons your podcast is important. The first is that eco-terrorism is not much studied and does not generally garner much attention in the mainstream media. The FBI has been keeping an eye out for decades, though other countries have not. One country’s security people actually derided it as a “thing” as recently as 2016 when one of their colleagues raised it, with examples. So, terrorism scholars, policy makers and security people need to start working in it.
    Second, eco-terrorism is often seen as synonymous with far left terrorism. Understandable error. You mention Earth Liberation Front. But there was in the US from the early 1970s, also the Animal Liberation Front, Earth First, and the Animal Rights Militia and related groups, who conducted acts of sabotage and intimidation. Some of these US activists engaged in ecologically motivated sabotage – “ecotage”. This gave rise to the term, Monkeywrenching, the notion of “Ecodefense” and their book, “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching”. For some in the ecodefense milieu, the book has a similar cachet to the Turner Diaries, but with more, “How To” rather than the Turner Diaries fantasy of “It’ll be good if..when this finally happens…”
    But its not only North America. Some animal rights activists in the UK, for instance, targeted for intimidation up to 100 people associated with a farm that bred animals for research. Explosive devices were sent to some, mail threatening to kill and maim to others. There were attacks on homes, cars and businesses. The campaign culminated in the theft of the body of an elderly lady and a close relative of the family who ran the farm, from her grave in October 2004.
    Such limitation of eco-terrorism to the left is a fundamental conceptual error. Eco-terrorism can be committed by the left or politics or the right (a version is “eco-fascism”, which is the ideology of the Christchurch killer as well as the El Paso Walmart attacker); or people who are no where in particular on the left – right spectrum might engage in acts of eco-terrorism (such as an act or terror to prevent fracking or a gas pipeline; Canadian Wiebo Ludwig is an example here).
    Eco-terrorism, in my view, is not a different form of terrorism, as you say. It is terrorism – politically, or more broadly violence to advance an ecological ideology or even single cause connected with the environment or more broadly ecology.
    Given the rise of the extreme right, it may be the case that the most significant threat of eco-terrorism is presented by groups and individuals who are supporters of extreme right ideologies. There is, for instance, the largely social media group, “pine tree gang” (PTG), which promote ideas that blend a sense of impending environmental catastrophe with themes taken from white nationalism. Reportedly the “armed wing” of The Northwest Front, the PTG’s main objective is the same as The Northwest Front: a whites only enclave in the US Pacific North West, tentatively called Cascadia, to which racially loyal Whites can flee from the inevitable collapse of the decadent and corrupt American civilization). [Sounds a lot like hijrah to territory controlled by the Islamic State, n’est-ce pas?] But the PTG takes all this a step further and has an ecological ideology drawing on the ideas of the Unabomber (Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski), rejecting materialism, technology and environmental degradation. [The PTG is reported also to have launched a www site, Eco Fascist Order, which explicitly brings together, seemingly, the PTG and NWF.] One slogan is “Our demand is simple. Step away from our forests. The rape of our soil in the name of profit will be tolerated no longer”.
    So, Ted Kaczynski, often thought an inspiration for the left, has become an inspiration for many on the right too – including an all Girl band in France that promotes right wing ideology.
    Linking ecological issues with extreme right politics is not just a north American thing. The Nordic Resistance Movement, is a pan-Nordic neo-Nazi ideological outlook that has chapters in all Nordic countries but operates under different names in in Scandinavian countries. Its manifesto, Our Path, contains clear policies promoting at a sustainable and environmentally and ecologically sound society, along with the usual anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, racist policies usually associated with Nazism. They also state that ecological awareness is an axiom of Nazi ideology. There is the German, The III. Path (Der III Weg) for instance, and groups in many other European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
    So, why from the left, rather than the right? And why environmentalism?
    Recalling a list I copied down years ago at a presentation, the right meet more of the conditions for transitioning to violence than the left. It is not simply a matter of having grievances; it is that people have narratives that depict a world of threat, injustice and betrayal that can be resisted only via violence. The right feel threatened, by others and by events, to a greater extent than the left, and they believe that without action, “their” people will be victims, but that personal agency can protect and redeme the almost hopeless situation.
    • Belief in and identification with an in-group: They believe in a threat to their group from an out group or groups. In the case of the right in western countries, this is immigrants, a global and secret cabal of financiers, most of whom may be Jewish; “leftists”, who have also destroyed the environment.
    • The system is collapsing (look, anarchy on the streets! No one is safe!)
    • The society has been betrayed (by the deep state)
    • The society is collapsing: accepted gender roles, respect for authority and power are all failing;
    • No person in power can be trusted: ongoing efforts to control and deceive the citizenry and manipulate them by falsehoods; and rampant corruption (fake news; conspiracies; COVID)
    • The accepted means of protecting interests and voicing views, being heard and being acknowledged, have become useless. (Democracy does not work; it never did: it only empowered people to victimise and exploit the in-group)
    • The world is becoming unlivable: pollution, poison and environmental degradation are reducing not only the quality of life but a person’s own autonomy
    • There is no other option but violence by a gladiatorial elite. They all want to be Spartans: Molon labe or the cultured thug. Hence the militaristic fantasising.
    Few on the left adhere to all these. It is about ideology for them: human right; justice; not so for those on the right who more or less reject those ideas. For the left, there is still a belief that activism produces change. For the actively violent right, that belief is long gone and environmentalism fits onto that overall outlook. Christchurch, Norway and El Paso shows that. The worst is yet to come.
    Anyway, thanks for your podcast. I gave me the opportunity to till again a field long left fallow.

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