Not all terrorist organizations that hate what America stands for are based in the Middle East. We have some right here at home, and the most active seems to have set up shop in my hometown of San Diego.
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a loose organization of individuals and small cells operating, supposedly, to save the Earth from profit-driven capitalists. Apparently, though, ELF is organized enough that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which lists a $1,500 donation to ELF on its 2001 tax return, was able to know where to send financial contributions. Though the Feds are investigating, it is yet to be seen if the anti-patriot John Ashcroft will be cracking down on PETA's civil right to fund terrorist organizations.
ELF proudly proclaims that since 1997 it has "caused over $100 million in damages to entities who profit from the destruction of life and the planet." And in case you have any doubt who these entities might be, "[t]he ELF realizes the profit motive caused and reinforced by the capitalist society is destroying all life on this planet." So if you support capitalism, you're free game. "For too long," ELF proclaims, "we the people…have allowed our magnificent forests to be leveled and shipped off, our water to be poisoned and now, greed driven developers are trying to marginalize off the last green spaces of habitat of our unknown Edens."
Among the $100 million in damage ELF has caused was the recent arson destruction of four homes under construction a couple miles from where I live and the torching of an under-construction $50 million apartment project in San Diego. ELF termed these "actions against urban sprawl." The apartment site is a small island of land bordered on the east by a freeway, on the north by a six-lane surface street, and on the west and south by other apartments and condos and offices. This was hardly critical natural habitat to preserve. And as ELF fully knew, this action won't preserve it. The apartments are back under construction. All its action caused was some air pollution, the destruction of a few thousand more trees to replace the destroyed apartments, and a financial hit to everyone who buys insurance.
Nonetheless, one Richard Marose commented on the apartment arson: "I think it's a positive statement that at least someone somewhere is trying to point out that over-development is clogging our already congested urban areas." Yes, morons, as well as terrorists, live among us.
EXCEPT FOR TWO YEARS AT THe Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, where I studied getting in touch with my inner-greed, exploiting the downtrodden, and marginalizing off our unknown Edens, I have spent my entire 40 years in San Diego. Since my childhood days of searching a local canyon's vernal pools for tadpoles (still there, by the way), the population of San Diego County has more than doubled. In fact, neither the neighborhood in which I live, nor the street on which my office is located, existed ten years ago. So I know something about urban sprawl and don't need some yahoo who probably moved here a few years ago (adding to urban sprawl) to burn down houses to point it out.
And though I do the work of the devil -- or whomever is the evil antithesis of Gaia the Earth Goddess -- at a commercial real estate development company, I have also been a long-time supporter of groups that actually do do something to preserve natural habitat from urban sprawl -- the Nature Conservancy and a similar local organization -- which both preserve habitat the old fashioned way: they buy it. But developers, driven as they are by greed, build to satisfy a demand. So the ultimate villains are consumers of houses, condos, apartments, shopping centers, and office buildings, including, no doubt, all those ELF members.
Like their better-known terrorist brethren who hate America and its capitalist system, ELF undertakes actions it knows will have no direct consequence beneficial to its stated goals. It merely looks to inflict harm, hoping that will cow people into living in teepees and biking to work. ELF members are sustained by hate against infidels who don't share their extremist religion, and are eager to commit violence against their "enemies." So far that violence has been targeted against property, but as the more radical members come to realize that burning down a few houses and vandalizing SUVs aren't accomplishing anything, and fueled by their demonizing rhetoric, violence against people is not far off.
Also like other terrorists, environmental terrorist groups have their own legitimate political organization. The Green Party is the fastest growing political party in the United States. And though it can't be compared in relative size to the fundamentalist Islamic parties in the Middle East, or to Sinn Fein, it is similarly a narrow, extremist party. If you're not sure whether the Greens' anti-capitalist environmentalism is extreme, consider that even though Al Gore's Earth in the Balance was a favorite of the Unabomber, a few thousand Florida Greens still thought it better (fortunately) to hand the 2000 presidential election to George Bush by voting for Ralph Nader rather than for Al Gore.
The Green Party and ELF essentially admit that capitalism creates wealth, which, in turn, creates jobs, industry, housing, automobiles, etc. If only the left wing of the Democratic Party were as perceptive. But to the Greens and ELF, all this is "destroying all life on this planet." They also admit that capitalism is successful in providing people with choices, including choices Greens don't think people should have -- such as buying an SUV.
Though they disparage the fruits of capitalism, I have yet to see one Green Party candidate for any office foregoing the products of the Industrial Revolution, or for that matter the Information Revolution. The Green Party (and ELF), for instance, makes good use of the Internet, made possible by the corporate greed of Intel, Cisco, and Microsoft, and server farms using vast amounts of energy, and computers assembled in habitat-destroying factories and shipped by pollution-spewing diesel trucks.
SO, IF EVEN THEY ARE AGREED (in action, if not in rhetoric) that we don't exactly want to live the subsistence lifestyle of the romanticized native Americans (that is, native North Americans -- not those indigenous peasant farmers in the Amazon Basin whose primitive slash and burn techniques destroy more rainforest and cause more pollution than the greediest developer), we should all agree that capitalism is an environmental godsend. It is capitalism that creates the wealth to allow environmentalism in an industrial society. It was rich, capitalist America that spearheaded clean air policies, effluent standards, energy efficiency programs -- and produced the technologies to make them happen. If you want to see non-capitalist industrial environmentalism, go to Mexico City, or to China, or to the environmental hellholes of former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe.
Capitalism also provides the political freedom to allow people's desire to live in a clean, healthy environment to be translated into action. As documented by Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, the link between economic freedom and political freedom is indisputable. By contrast, communist-style command economies, in addition to being able to take away our freedom to buy SUVs, also necessarily take away our freedom to buy, and do, lots of other things -- including having a say in environmental policy. A nation's economy, after all, is nothing more than the decisions of individuals as to what to produce and consume. Therefore, a government-controlled economy means a government-controlled people. If you complain to the local political authorities about the pollution coming from the People's Sheet Metal Factory in Havana, you're likely to be turned into organic fertilizer.
But ELF terrorists, just like al Qaeda terrorists, live in their own special world in which any accommodation with the unenlightened is blasphemy. They fight largely imagined, not real injustices. Without their enemies, without their cause, they have no identity and their lives have no meaning. So they will remain, oblivious to facts and oblivious to reason, and ready to commit violence. That is why they are so dangerous and why we have to pursue them seriously.