Environmental Terrorism: Analyzing the Concept

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Schwartz, Daniel (1998) Environmental Terrorism: Analyzing the Concept , Journal of Peace Research 35(4): 483–496.

The term 'environmental terrorism' (or 'ecological terrorism') has found its way into North American politics, media, and academia. The concept of 'environmental terrorism', however, remains an ambiguous one. When is it appropriate to call environmental destruction 'environmental terrorism'? To date, the term 'environmental terrorism' has been misused by North American politicians, media, and academics alike. In this article, I devise a taxonomy that allows one to systematically discern the types of environmental destruction that can legitimately be labeled 'terrorism' and those that can be labeled 'environmental terrorism'. Environmental destruction or the threat thereof can be labeled 'terrorism' when: (1) the act or threat breaches national and/or international laws governing the disruption of the environment during peacetime or wartime; and (2) the act or threat exhibits the fundamental characteristics of terrorism (i.e. the act or threat of violence has specific objectives, and the violence is aimed at a symbolic target). An act of environmental destruction can be termed 'environmental terrorism' only when the two latter criteria are met, and when the environment is used by the perpetrator as an authentic symbol that instills fear in the larger population over the ecological consequences of the act.

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