Some environmentalists take the position that traditional methods of social change like political lobbying, public awareness campaigns, and the like are insufficient for achieving necessary changes in the relationship between humans and the environment. As such, radical environmentalists resort to non-traditional forms of activism.
Most radical environmentalists take the view that destruction of the environment is fast approaching crisis point, and that if serious changes are not made in the relationship between humans and the natural world, the health of the planet, or at least of many living species, are at grave risk. Many subscribe to a philosophy encompassing this ideal called deep ecology.
History of Radical Environmentalism
The first (as far as this author cares to verify) significant radical environmentalist group was Greenpeace, which made use of direct action to confront a variety of transgressors, including whaling ships and nuclear weapons testers.
In 1980 an organization called Earth First! was established by Dave Foreman and others to confront environmental destruction, primarily of the American West. Inspired by the Edward Abbey novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang", Earth First! made use of such techniques as treesitting and treespiking to stop logging companies, as well as other activities targeted towards mining, road construction, suburban development and energy companies.
In the mid-90s, Earth First! renounced the use of violence and committed to using other forms of activism to pursue the same goals. This led to a split within the movement, and the emergence of the increasingly militant Earth Liberation Front (ELF), concommitant with the emergence of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The ELF gained national attention for a series of actions which earned them the label of ecoterrorists, including the burning of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, and the burning of an SUV dealership in Oregon.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks several laws were passed increasing the penalty for ecoterrorism, and hearings were held in Congress discussing the activity of groups such as the ELF. To date no one has been killed as a result of an ELF or ALF action, causing some to wonder whether the label of terrorist is appropriate.