Earth Liberation Front: Please Don’t Liberate Us


Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D. is a professor of horticulture at the University of Washington250pxpatty_hearst and gardening educator par excellence.  (See also Master Gardener Magazine).  Her Horticultural Myths have long been required reading for gardeners in the Pacific Northwest and now that I’ve finally discovered them, I’m milking ’em.

So this is old news to LInda’s long-time readers but not to me, so bear with me.  Myth: "Any Action Taken in Defense of the Environment Is Justifiable," which Chalker-Scott admits isn’t really commonly believed but an excuse for her to rant.  I guess I’d need to rant, too, if my horticultural laboratory had just been fricking firebombed.  Oh, yeah, back in May of 2001 Washington University’s Center for Urban Horticulture was bombed by the Earth Liberation Front (cutely acronymed ELF) because it was hybridizing plants.  Lots of Chalker-Scott’s own plant samples and equipment were destroyed.  Looks like elves aren’t so cute after all.

We’ve touched on the great genetic modification debate a bit here and we should get used to it because it ain’t going away any time soon.  Michael Pollan has made the case for GM foodcrops as the last, best chance to reduce the use of pesticides.  Where should we look for the best case against?   

Probably not the Earth Liberation Front.  Since bombing Chalker-Scott’s research facilities, ELF has continued in that vein and committed over 1,200 acts of vandalism or arson.  Its leader, now in jail but due to be released this month, says he’s had a change of heart: 

In 2006, while imprisoned for felony conspiracy
and awaiting trial on further charges, Coronado expressed a change in
his personal philosophy inspired by fatherhood. In an open letter, he
wrote, "Don’t ask me how to burn down a building. Ask me how to grow
watermelons or how to explain nature to a child," explaining that he
wants "not [to] be remembered as a man of destruction but a human
believer in peace and love for all."

An Internet search of ecoterrorism produces articles about ELF, the Animal Liberation Front, and Earth First! ELF itself objects to the perjorative term "ecoterrorist" and claims that none of its 1,200 violent acts have resulted in an "animal death, human or nonhuman."  Notice that’s "death," not "injury," though splitting hairs with terrorists is certainly pointless, in any event.


  1. I’m glad you’ve ventured into this thorny topic since I think it will become increasingly more relevant to more people as the environmental perils we face continue to mount. And it is particularly relevant to us as gardeners–we should be, in effect, the foot soldiers in the battle to save the planet.

    And while it is nice to hear that ELF’s leader has seen the light, it’s doubtful that his conversion to sane advocacy rather than ecoterrorism is going to lead to the conversion of many of the followers he trained.

    I have no tolerance for ecoterrorists, no matter how noble their intentions. I prefer to look to people like the Dervaes family of the Path to Freedom Project, who lead by example and education, not destruction and violence.

  2. I’m sure *not* going to rush to the defense of vandals, felons or ecoterrorists. But there are times that I think that they are used in some twisted logic that goes something like this:

    Ecoterrorists are very, very bad people, so the things that they fight against must be very, very good — or they wouldn’t use such horrible tactics to fight against those things.

    B does not follow from A. The logic is as twisted as the hypocrisy of ecoterrorists using life-threatening tactics to bring down what they feel are life-threatening technologies.

    This related article in this morning’s Washington Post is worth a read: Rice Industry Troubled by Genetic Contamination

    The money quote:

    “For years the industry said, ‘This will never get out,’ ” said Joseph Mendelson III, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that has won several legal challenges against the Agriculture Department’s handling of biotech crops. “Now it’s, ‘It will get out, but what does it matter?’ We can have a scientific debate about that, but in the meantime it certainly matters a lot economically, because so much of the world doesn’t want this stuff.”

    Farmers not buying GM seed because there’s no market for GM crops? Now that’s more of a threat to biotech crops than the tiny number of folks out there running around with ‘Hayduke Lives!’ bumperstickers.

  3. I’m not entirely convinced that all of the ELF, PETA, and similar folk truly believe in what they’re fighting for. I think some people just like the rush of acting in the extreme, and will pretend (even to themselves) that they believe in something because they get off on the thrill of extreme behavior.

  4. Call this my internal copy editor:

    The legal definition of violence is against sentient living things. Otherwise, it is called property destruction.

    The ELF has committed 1200 acts of property destruction, not 1200 acts of violence.

    This isn’t splitting hairs either. It is like calling a person who shoplifts a mugger instead of a shoplifter. The two acts are quite different crimes.

  5. Also, I wonder if native gardening isn’t another California trend that doesn’t translate especially well to the east coast. The biggest reason to garden with natives in California is so we don’t have to water from April through October. But summer rains are common in the east (right?), so your plants get watered whether you’re doing it or not.

  6. Who is worse – ecoterrorists or eco-murderers? The entire Industrial Society is collectively killing the environment.

    *The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.*

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    *Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.*

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
    Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

    Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

    Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

    A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

    A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :


  7. Isn’t it amazing how extremists believe that they are the only people on earth who 1) Really believe in their cause, 2) Have the most intelligent answers to their complaints, and 3) Are beyond reproach?

    I am a “conservative,” though I’m not a Republican. Republicans can’t believe in such a thing.

    I’m pro-environment, though I don’t align myself with environmental extremism.

    I love peace, but recognize the regretful need for war to defeat radicals who deprive others of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (regardless of how vain or insignificant the radicals believe their victims’ views of these benchmarks of humanity are).

    I believe in animal rights, and I DO believe in pursuing legal action against those who bring cruelty upon animals. But I don’t believe in bringing traumatic harm upon those who don’t understand or see things as I do. (I don’t attack mothers wearing furs in front of their children.)

    Ultimately, I believe in taking an educated, argumentative stand against the things in which I don’t believe, and in favor of those things in which I do. But when it comes to radicals who become terrorists, I have learned from first-hand experience that educated argument is no longer possible.

    I have to then ask the one thing I’ve asked President Bush … Are you not doomed to failure, fighting terrorists with a conventional war? Worse, by capping your war with a police action are you not boxing up passions that merely seethe, awaiting your departure? Terrorists thrive on publicity and loud opposition. It brings attention to their cause.

    Radicals, once they’ve adopted the mentality of terror over argument, can only be dealt with from the perspective of terror itself. Don’t bring armies against them. Bring terrorists.

    That harm which they espouse as being holy and justifiable, is still reprehensible TO THEM when it is exacted against them … against their friends … against their families … against all that they love.

    If terror rises in the United states, be rest-assured, so too will true counter-terrorism … in the form of terror: There will be no news broadcasts of “ELF” or “Ecoterrorism.” There will be silent reports of small homes burning here, vandalism there … Someone’s parents (probably an eco-terrorist’s) will have lost everything they own … and nobody will care. Signs claiming responsibility will not be left. Publicity will be nonexistent.

    The message will be subtle but clearly understood: Terrorists have become targets of terrorism.

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