The Next Wave of Extremists Will Be Green

Militant environmentalism is coming. And we aren’t ready for it.


If military strategists are always fighting the last war, the same is true of those who work on countering radicalization. In 2001, Western intelligence services, mostly focused on localized terrorist groups like the Irish Republican Army and ETA, were stunned by al Qaeda. Come 2011, they were then blindsided by Anders Behring Breivik and the growth in far-right extremism. By the mid-2010s, the Islamist threat had evolved into the Islamic State — and they were slow to spot that, too.

Today, we are about to make the same mistake. We will not easily forgive ourselves if our attention is exclusively occupied by the Islamic State or the far-right when the coming wave of environmental radicalization hits.

There’s nothing new about radical environmentalism. In 2001, the Earth Liberation Front — a militant, violent environmentalist group — was described by the FBI as one of the top domestic terrorist threats. Academics have estimated that “REAR” (Radical Environmentalist and Animal Rights) cells can be found in at least 25 countries and were responsible for more than 1,000 criminal acts between 1970 and 2007 in the United States alone — mostly vandalism and attacks on animal testing facilities. Over the last 30 years, there have been periodic fears about new waves of “eco-terrorism,” which have never quite materialized.

But, until recently, radical environmentalism had been a victim of its own success. Green ideas went mainstream years ago. Most major political parties in Western democracies (Donald Trump and the Republican Party notwithstanding) now accept the facts of climate change and have promised to respond. Environmentalism has also become part of the broader anti-capitalism movement, which is — mostly — characterized by a commitment to nonviolence and bottom-up change. As a result, climate activism that crosses from peaceful protests, like marching in the streets, to civil disobedience — shutting down mines or monkey-wrenching machinery — remains stubbornly small. There are no exact figures, but people on the inside have told me that, in the U.K. at least, it’s just a few hundred hardcore activists, and a few thousand in the United States.

There are clues, however, that this may be about to change. The necessary conditions for the radicalization of climate activism are all in place. Some groups are already showing signs of making the transition. And when they do, we may be ill-equipped for handling these new green hard-liners.

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The post The Next Wave of Extremists Will Be Green appeared first on The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).

via The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

March 15, 2019 at 05:02AM

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