U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

From Spikes to Bombs: The Rise of Eco-Terrorism

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Volume: 19 Issue: 1 Dated: (January-March 1996) Pages: 1-18
S P Eagan
Date Published
18 pages
This paper examines environmental terrorism in terms of its nature, its history, the philosophical justifications of its perpetrators, and some of the tactics used by "eco-terrorists."
For the purposes of this article, "eco-terrorism" is used to denote the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally oriented subnational group for environmental-political reasons, aimed at an audience beyond the target, and often of a symbolic nature. The radical environmental movement is composed of a wide array of organizations, from the very large and well-funded Sea Shepherds to the lone, unaffiliated eco-terrorist. Ecological terrorists have fought against a host of issues, including logging, drift-net fishing, nuclear energy, whaling, road construction, and the wearing of fur. Nearly all of the groups share three elements; they argue that due to environmental necessity, an uncompromising position is needed; they spend their time and money on direct action to achieve this goal, rather than on lobbying government and industry; and they typically are grass roots organizations with little or no pay, no perks, and little hierarchical structure. Most of the destructive acts committed by environmental terrorist target property, and the range of targets is broad. Terrorist acts have included the spiking of trees to present hazards to loggers who would cut the trees, the dismantling of an electrical transmission tower, and the sinking of ships involved in whaling and drift net fishing. Eco- terrorists have also issued death threats against targeted individuals and even attempted to murder individuals deemed threats to their cause. Environmental terrorism peaked in the 1980's and has been in decline, but as environmentalists become increasingly dissatisfied with the efforts at environmental protection proposed by both political parties, the threat of terrorist action is likely to increase. The danger of ecological terrorist organizations is that they condition their members to devalue the lives of those they perceive to be obstacles to the implementation of their cause. 87 notes