Apr 032008
Authors: Joseph Haynie

After last month’s torching of several multi-million dollar “Mcmansions” in a posh Seattle suburb, it is needless to say that members of the Earth Liberation Front, the group allegedly responsible, will not be invited to the neighborhood block party.

The scenes of burnt homes and charred frames resurrected decade old images of a ski village in Vail ablaze. Extremist groups are a scourge to causes in general.

ELF is to environmentalism as Al Qaeda is to Islam, in that a few rotten apples spoil the whole bunch, ultimately doing more harm than good. ELF and other extremist groups distract the otherwise sympathetic public from the worthy cause of environmental awareness.

Not only do their actions give environmental advocacy groups a bad name, they’re also hypocritical. How can one claim to be environmentally friendly when they are burning down buildings? Does that not release carbon and other pollutants into the air?

Matthew Harwood, a columnist for The Guardian, a British publication, commented on the events in Seattle. He described the group’s members as not only “hardcore zealots committed to a cause and think nothing of burning down residential homes and scientific facilities,” but also stated that they “deserve lengthy jail terms.” However, that is as far as he goes.

Harwood does not consider them terrorists because their actions are not in line with international and academic definitions of terrorism.

But how can one not consider members of ELF as terrorists? The FBI sure does.

The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Members of ELF may not be mingling with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, nor have they hijacked planes and crashed them into buildings, but that doesn’t mean what they do does not constitute terrorism.

Terrorists use intimidation, violence and other no-holds-barred tactics to further their political or ideological agendas and interests. Although ELF avoids physically harming people, living by the slogan, “if you build it, we will burn it” seems like a threat, if not a form of intimidation.

Furthermore, by burning down buildings, they may not be physically harming anyone, but they are damaging people’s livelihood or even their dream.

By torching university labs, like they did in Michigan in 1999 and in Washington in 2001, they are destroying years of research. And for what? To further perpetuate the green lifestyle?

It just so happens that those Seattle homes were technically built “green” in that they used geothermal heating units, recycled materials and wood from sustainable forests. The labs were engaged in genetically modifying plants so as to provide developing countries with reliable crops and food sources that did not need the assistance of pesticides.

There are plenty of ways to further one’s political or social objectives with all of the passion and none of the lighter fluid.

Take the various groups on campus for example. From passing out pamphlets to filling out surveys, to speaking with students, they manage to talk about what they believe without having to resort to threats and coercive tactics.

Even the religious street preachers, despite damning every demographic of the student body and engaging in a few shouting matches, do a better job than ELF and other fringe groups.

Even as more details of the event are unfolded, and ELF gets some headlines, one question, however, still remains. Do you think they used ethanol to torch those homes? After all, it does burn cleaner than gasoline.

Joseph Haynie is a senior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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