Radical Environmentalism in an Age of Antiterrorism

Steven Vanderheiden

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper examines how antiterrorist laws and rhetoric have targeted the radical environmentalist tactic of ecotage, directing the increased law enforcement powers of the US 'war on terror' against this form of resistance and conflating in the public mind a tactic that inflicts only property damage with one that aims its violence against innocent persons.Despite significant differences between 'eco-terrorism' and genuine terrorism, this association threatens to undermine the public case for environmental protection upon which direct action tactics rely, creating a strategic dilemma for radical environmentalists. Should they continue to endorse ecotage as a viable tactic in defence of nature? Might they face a backlash if attacks upon property engender violence against persons? Can radical environmentalism dissociate itself from terrorism without diminishing the movement's appeal or compromising its radicalism? On the other hand, is ecotage publicly defensible, can the principled distinction between harm to property and harm to persons be maintained in practice, and should radical environmentalists concern themselves with making such a defence? This chapter considers that strategic dilemma along with the underlying normative issues that it involves, ultimately arguing for the importance of principles in theory and practice while acknowledging various difficulties in maintaining them.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)299-318
    Number of pages20
    JournalEnvironmental Politics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008

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