Terrorism in Green

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Since the Oklahoma City bombing, the political Right has been on the hotseat, blamed for "creating a climate" that supposedly made the violence inevitable. Of course it was a partisan smear. The political violence of the Left, meanwhile, goes unchecked, even though it is, in fact, a natural extension of an ideology that opposes property rights and economic development, and embraces force as a principle of social action.

In the 1990s, there was the murderer Ted Kacynski, who remains a cult hero on the Left. If he were let out of jail, he could get an endowed chair at any number of Ivy League campuses. So impressed has the environmentalist movement been with his theory and tactics that they have continued to spread the terror.

Just this week, the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington was burned to the ground, an action that destroyed 30 years of research records. Also terrorists burned several cars and buildings at a tree nursery in northwest Oregon.

Why would the Left do this? Both institutions are involved in researching ways to genetically improve trees, making them stronger and more productive for commerce in wood products. But the environmentalists regard such research as an insult against nature, and consider the scientists to be imperiling nature.

Imagining themselves to be little Green Pol Pots and Maos, they destroy research and researchers. Lacking any respect for property rights, or opposing them altogether, left-wing activists have no moral problem with destroying property and wrecking the lives of scientists so nature can be left undisturbed.

Scrawled on a remaining building in Oregon were the words: "You cannot control what is wild," and the initials ELF, which stand for Earth Liberation Front. This organization has claimed credit for arsons and violence from coast to coast. An anonymous spokesman for ELF explained why they are doing it: "These companies are rolling the dice with the biodiversity of the natural environment."

Sounds like a sentence from a typical Democrat on a Sunday morning talk show. So, you see, these are not crazy fringe groups of extremists from whom the "mainstream" Left can easily distance itself, as much as they may try.

Not surprisingly, the media go out of their way to explain that these extreme groups have no connection whatever to responsible environmentalists. But the murderers and vandals hold exactly the same political ideology as the Democratic Party, and have an equally low view of property rights.

They believe, just like most mainstream left-liberals, that tampering with nature is evil, and that the companies that do it should be punished. That the mainstreamers do it with federal legislation, and the activists do it with direct violence, doesn’t make much difference. The motivation and the effect are the same.

Of course, there are unexpected consequences. The terrorists destroyed a university institute with a rare species of plant, the showy stickseed, which it had been painstakingly cultivating for more than a year. There are only 300 such plants remaining in the world — 100 of which were inside the laboratory that went up in flames.

One wonders whether these people really do love plants and animals, because so many of their activities (including legislation) actually end up harming the environment. Consider: at the Seattle anti-WTO protests, terrorists cut down trees at local nurseries. Why isn’t that murder? Because the trees were raised by man for man, and man is the real object of their hate. And no man is more hated by them than the scientist who is seeking ways to improve the productivity of species through genetic research.

Environmental terrorism is becoming a serious threat to progress. Scientists are increasingly shying away from this research for fear of being murdered or having their laboratories (and hence their research) burned to the ground. At one time, it was considered sufficient protection to be at a major university. But now the terrorists have shown themselves willing to go anywhere to destroy property and risk lives.

These groups are given ideological endorsement by huge swaths of the American intellectual and political establishment. Their goals are the goals of major pieces of legislation in Congress. Their values are pushed by establishment television channels and major news broadcasts. When was the last time that a major news weekly expressed even the slightest misgivings about the environmentalist pathology?

You should be worried even if you are not a scientist doing work in genetics. Their work makes paper and wood products more plentiful and affordable, and food safer and more abundant. Everything they do is directed towards improving our lives through better, safer, and more plentiful products.

By comparison, what have the environmentalists given us? Energy shortages, burning forests, higher prices, land lockups, and economic regulation that ties free enterprise in knots. And their methods are not the voluntary exchange you find on the free market, but the violence of arson and the bureaucratic management of our lives.

And don’t tell me that we should thank them for clean air and clean water. It is capitalism that has made all improvements possible. Anyway, if the Greens, who are advocates of forced population control, had their way, there would be far fewer of us around to drink or breath at all.

The environmental Left is both pathological and malevolent. Its target is civilization, and we are making a huge mistake in permitting it any degree of respectability. How many more buildings need to be destroyed, how many more scientists need suffer intimidation and threats of violence, or death and bombings, before we come to terms with the eco-terrorist threat in our midst?

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also edits a daily news site, LewRockwell.com.

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