Ask the FBI, and they will contend that a dangerous wave of ecoterrorism has swept North America in the past decade. Ski resorts, new condominium developments and corporate logging headquarters have all been the target of arson attacks, pushing the damage tally of a shadowy organization called the Earth Liberation Front past the $100 million mark. The FBIs concern has reached such a fervor, in fact, that it labeled environmental terrorism as the number one domestic terrorism threat in 2005.
A new study by University of Alberta researcher Paul Joosse cautions against any surety about the ideological motivations behind the arsons, however. While many of the acts were purportedly done in the name of the Earth Liberation Front, this doesnt necessarily mean that the acts were actually committed for environmental reasons, says Joosse. The reason for the confusion" The Earth Liberation Front (or ELF, for short) uses an organizational strategy called leaderless resistance, whereby small cells choose when, how, and against whom to actand then make a claim of responsibility on behalf of the mother group. This means that the individual arsonists are not bound by the ethical guidelines of the larger organization, and that they may be acting for entirely personal reasons. In the past, people have spoken in the name of the group says Joosse, but actually its a movement bereft of leaders, so you cant pin the movement to a single issue, or even a common ideology.
When perpetrators have been caught, however, they often bear the full burden of being associated with and eco-terrorist organization. Take the case of Jeffrey Luers, for example. In 2000, he was sentenced to a 22-year prison term for his role in fire-bombing three SUVs, causing $60,000 in damages to property, but harming no one. He never claimed affiliation with the ELF, but because his actions looked very much like them, his sentence ranked in the same category as those regularly given in
|Contact: Kris Connor|
University of Alberta