Definitions Semantics and a Common Syntax

Every discussion of eco-terrorism faces the recurrent difficulty of defining precisely what is being described. Terms such as "eco-terrorism," "environmental terrorism," and "ecotage," are used almost interchangeably, generating confusion and misunderstanding, and sub-definitions such as "impact eco-terror" and "ideological eco-terror" [12] further complicate the lexicon. An excellent example of this confusion is found within the Encyclopedia Britannica, where ecological terrorism and environmental terrorism are lumped together, with a definition that includes both terroristic crimes utilizing or targeting environmental resources, and the use of terror for the sake of protecting the environment [13]. Additionally, the terms environmental terror and eco-terror are often used interchangeably [14], though they represent very different practices. Effort must be made to distinguish exactly which actions of concern are being addressed [15].

While the term "eco-terrorism" has been well-recognized in a number of arenas [1,16], it nonetheless may be most accurate to use "violent, radical, direct action environmentalism" to describe the behaviors in question. The unwieldi-ness of that descriptor, however, calls for a shorter label. For the purposes of brevity and consistency, we shall use the term "eco-terrorism" to refer to: "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, or aimed as an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature" [1].

Even within the confines of this term and definition, however, we must face several related and ongoing issues, including (1) recognizing that the term "terrorist" is laden with connotations that have the risk of being inappropriately applied to the broader non-violent environmental movement; (2) discerning who in fact qualifies as an eco-terrorist; and (3) determining the nature or role of violence in the definition of eco-terror. Each merits a brief discussion before moving on to consider eco-terror and globalism.

The observation that the mere term "terrorism" carries with it social and legal connotations certainly gives pause to any careless application of the term [17]. The illegitimacy or criminal presumption that attaches to the term may taint those to whom the term is applied, regardless of the actual activities they undertake. This concern is particularly important in considering the chilling effect that labeling otherwise legitimate forms of social protest as eco-terrorism might cause. A uniform definition of eco-terrorism is therefore highly desirable to minimize any inappropriate usages, and to prevent inadvertent or intentional corruption of the term. The definition provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. [1] is certainly open to semantic or philosophical debate. It does, however, provide a consistent reference for discussing the subject, and by virtue of its adoption by federal law enforcement, it provides an official meaning for both opponents and apologists of eco-terroristic behavior.

Eco-terror in a broader anti-globalism context clearly implies more than a single definition of terrorism, and in a number of nations, eco-terrorism is not specially defined [18]. There is, of course, no pressing need for a globally accepted definition of eco-terror, provided each country has addressed the issue in some manner. It is more important that official definitions be developed, and that these respective national legal definitions are well-articulated and consistently applied. Anything less risks enveloping broader environmental activism within the specific, criminalized confines of eco-terror [19]. For illustration, while the European Union has taken note of the threat posed by eco-terror [20], the depth of that attention does not reflect the priority that law enforcement in the United States has placed on this crime, nor the problems inherent in defining eco-terroristic actions.

Related to the matter of eco-terror definitions is the question of what behavior qualifies one as an eco-terrorist. While any definition, such as the federal definition in the U.S., may imply what actions are terroristic, the articulation of the crime does not specifically suggest what is being prohibited. For example, in 1999 the FBI noted that it has become "increasingly difficult to differentiate acts of terrorism from acts of vandalism" [3]. The FBI's narrow interpretation of the definition of terrorism under existing federal law allowed, in the agency's opinion, a number of crimes that might well have been committed by eco-terrorists to instead be classified as extremist vandalism. The FBI notes that it does not serve as the lead investigative body for such vandalism cases [3]. The difference between this depiction in 1999 and the statements made before the U.S. Congress in 2002 on behalf of the agency [1] signal that the FBI has broadened its approach. The definition expressed in 2002 is, not surprisingly, similar to the definition of domestic terrorism espoused in the 2001 Patriot Act.* In any anti-globalism setting, therefore, it is important to understand the limitations of existing laws and policies. Regardless of the criminality or social undesirability of certain acts, law enforcement agencies may lack the specific authority to effectively investigate and prosecute these crimes.

Somewhat tangential from the relationship between the definition of an act of eco-terror and law enforcement efforts, is a more philosophical debate over who is committing acts of terror, or who actually qualifies as an eco-terrorist. On one hand, Arnold [5] suggests that the anti-globalist and anarchist ranting of Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber), along with his familiarity with "green" activism, categorizes him as an eco-terrorist. With his string of deadly targeted mail bombs, Kaczynski was certainly a terrorist, but what additional criteria might be necessary to label him an eco-terrorist? Even with the federal definition in the U.S., it is necessary to delve into the motives of the Unabomber before one can proclaim him an eco-terrorist. At the other end of the spectrum are those that would argue that the various environmental policies of the U.S. government [21]

or the actions of corporate animal researchers [22] would qualify as eco-terroristic. Embedded within this semantic exercise is a fundamental moral question: is the violence intended to harm or terrorize a populace, or is it merely incidental to another activity? In other words, can the criminal efforts of the Unabomber in any way be likened to the activities of an animal researcher? If an easy distinction between the two is apparent, then arguing that researchers are eco-terrorists becomes more difficult. Certainly, public perceptions of differences in the two have led to the prevailing legal structure and standards, wherein the former is a crime, and the latter, practiced within bounds, is not.

Finally, the concept of violence is a recurring problem in defining eco-terror. Direct action environmentalism has a long relationship with various forms of violence. When Edward Abbey's character Doc objects to some of the proposed actions of the Monkey Wrench Gang: "'All this violence,' Doc said. 'We are a law-abiding people,'" he is chastised by Hayduke: "'What's more American than violence?'" Hayduke wanted to know. "'Violence, it's as American as pizza pie.'" [23]. While Abbey's Hayduke may have had little difficulty with his version of violence, there exists an apparent intellectual, though not legal, distinction between violence directed towards inanimate objects such as property and violence directed at persons. This distinction forms the foundation upon which direct action environmentalism maintains its claims to non-violence. The perceived difference is premised upon the assertion that so long as persons are neither targeted nor harmed, the related direct actions are not "violent." Actions such as arson, tree-spiking, vandalism of machinery or buildings, and other property-focused crimes would be considered non-violent under this paradigm, whereas mail bombs, letters containing razor blades, and the direct assault on an individual would qualify as violent. Direct action environmentalists, in many cases, claim to eschew the latter while embracing the former [2]. Interestingly, property crimes do not necessarily enjoy any particular relief under criminal law. For example, in the United States, arson is categorized as severely as the offenses of rape, assault, and manslaughter [24]. Kumar [25] notes that "there is no real distinction between violence to people and violence to property." It is a very thin line indeed, relying upon a distinction between the targets, rather than the acts themselves. It is important to recognize that the concept of violence may be interpreted far more broadly than direct action environmentalists may foresee or desire. As one commenter notes: "Violence in any form can inspire terror in its victims and in those indirectly affected by the violence" [18].

It is further troubling that violence against property targets has been recognized as a potential precursor to escalated violence such as kidnappings and murder [17,26], and that we may indeed expect an increase in environmentally-motivated attacks against specific individuals [27]. With individuals reporting attacks against their properties and harassment of their families [28-30], and with the attempted use of toxic compounds during protests [2], direct action envir-onmentalism may indeed be precariously poised to escalate.

The violence dichotomy can become further confused by its role in anti-globalism direct actions. In protests such as Seattle's World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999, the ensuing street violence resulted in arrests, curfews, and deployment of National Guard troops to restore order [31]. While the protesters did not directly assault individuals, and while the majority of the protesters may not have engaged in the most destructive acts [4,32], it is nonetheless difficult to excuse the chaos caused as non-violent, particularly when juxtaposed with the tradition of non-violent, civil disobedience displayed by such causes as the civil rights movement in the U.S. Some would argue that the violence inherent in such anti-globalist protests is merely a convenient excuse for public rioting [33]. The "Battle in Seattle" nonetheless continues to stir debate as a prime example demonstrating the boundary between non-violent and violent protests in the name of anti-globalism.

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