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A Brief Description of Radical Environmentalism

May 11, 2005


There is a common misconception that radical environmental struggle is a relatively new form of protest. However, the history of eco-defense is nearly as old as the human race itself. Many indigenous cultures around the world held the Earth and their surroundings as sacred. Social rules prescribed how the land and water that gave life to the people were to be treated and honored.

It is only in the last several hundred years that human societies have moved away from these beliefs. The modern world has increasingly lost touch with its wild roots. This lack of understanding and respect for the Earth has allowed the wanton destruction of our planet. This tragedy no longer affects the wild but humans as well.

There is no human in the world that can pass a blood toxin test for dioxin-a carcinogenic or teratogenic by-products of most industry. There is no ocean fish uncontaminated by mercury or PCBs. There is no escape from global warming. That is the reality of the 21st century.

Over the years, the radical environmental movement has evolved not only in the escalation of tactics, but in political theory as well. Many radical environmentalists recognize the connections between capitalism, oppression and the destruction of the planet. Indeed, the connections are obvious to any student of globalization.

Wealthy nations use imperialist policies to gain access to developing poorer nations, stealing their resources and implementing sub-par industrial methods-which pollute and toxify far beyond the standards of rich countries. Back at home, the same practices are used. Dangerous factories, toxic waste dumps and incinerators are built in communities predominantly of people of color or low income. These communities often get little say in environmental impact reports or the decision making process. In fact, state and industry response to resistance of such noxious facilities is the age old excuse of providing jobs to those in need.

While I can not speak on behalf of the movement, it is my perception that it is motivated (in part) by a sense of deep ecology. The belief that all life is interconnected from plant to animal to forest to ocean to the world at large. It is this connection and interdependence that creates the Earth as we know it and allows life to flourish. When one habitat or species is affected by pollution or global warming, it creates a chain reaction that affects the entire network of life.

It is because of this belief that the majority of political and radical environmentalists work to bring communities together. Not only to challenge state and corporate practices but to learn to create alternatives to them. It is only by developing alternatives to capitalism and harmful industry that we can create a world not motivated by profit-rather, one based on sustainability and the amount of good we can bring all people, not just a handful of rich elite.

In the last decade, new international and clandestine organizations have stepped forward to challenge the might of industrialized nations. Groups like the Earth Liberation Front [ELF], Justice Department and Revolutionary Cells have taken the fight to the state and corporations directly, including the targeting of executive officers [of corporations] and their residences.

While the ELF maintains a code of non violence toward human and non-human life, the Revolutionary Cells and Justice Department support the use of political violence and have engaged in bombings and direct assaults.

There is an increasing tendency of these groups and like minded individuals to target class status symbols-the oil industry, banks and governmental agencies-as the destruction of the environment and the oppression of people are often tied together.

In February 2002, the Congressional Committee on Resources held a hearing on “Eco-Terrorism.” Numerous politicians, corporate representatives and the Domestic Terrorist Section Chief of the FBI testified. The FBI defined the ELF as the most dangerous and prolific terrorist group in the United States. Despite the fact that in 13 years of activity, the ELF has never harmed a soul. However, they have caused close to $100 million in damages to property.

Congress has designated the above groups, specifically the ELF, as terrorist organizations using the same language to define the ELF as they have used to define al-Queada and enemy combatants. There are currently several bills before state and the federal government attempting to increase the punishment for acts of ‘eco-terrorism’, including the use of the death penalty. Several of these bills have passed into law.

However, even without these laws, excessive sentences are being handed down to those labeled as ‘eco-terrorists’. [ed-Jeff himself has a 22 year, 8 month sentence for burning 3 SUVs]. In some ways, the labeling of underground radicals as terrorists has split the environmental movement. Some above ground activists, particularly groups like the Sierra Club have denounced direct action and condemned those involved.

However, there are many above ground supporters of direct action. More and more, there is a strong sense of solidarity between the above and underground networks. It would seem that legal and reform activists are recognizing the need for direct action. Perhaps, more surprisingly, the underground resistance is understanding the need for public outreach and education which can only be done by above ground activists.

There is also an increasing trend of social justice activists and environmental struggles coming together forming support support networks. People from all movements and struggles are beginning to see the connection between fighting for liberation, equality and the Earth.

While politics and ideal remain as diverse as life on the planet, most agree that freedom, as well as clean air, water and land and all the joys and wonders of the Earth are our birth-right. It is for this, we fight.

For more information about political prisoner Jeff ‘Free’ Luers, see There will be a June 10-12th ‘Weekend of Resistance’ for Jeff.

Jeff “Free” Luers (13797671)
Oregon State Prison
2605 State Street
Salem OR 97310 USA

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