What Is Environmental Terrorism?

It’s not something we hear about often — especially since protecting our environment has become one of the most important issues of our time and most people aren’t out to damage the environment for no reason. Environmental terrorism still exists, though. What is environmental terrorism? The act occurs when someone willfully breaks the law to “harm or destroy environmental resources.”

Many people confuse environmental terrorism with eco-terrorism. The former is an attack perpetrated against nature. The latter is an attack perpetrated to support nature. Both forms of terrorism promote breaking the law or physical acts of violence in order to achieve the end goals of the group in question. Eco-terrorists are far more common, too. According to the FBI, eco-terrorists caused at least $200 million in property damage over a five-year span between 2003 and 2008.

Criminal defense attorneys are obligated to defend all clients regardless of guilt, but many have avoided associating with clients accused of any kind of terrorism. An anonymous attorney at jgcg.com claimed these types of clients are inevitable: “We know what we’re getting into when we receive an email from a prospective client slammed with terrorism charges. Although we try to keep an open mind, most of us know that our reputations are all we have. And helping terrorists comes with consequences none of us want.”

One of the most recent — and extreme — examples of environmental terrorism occurred when terrorists released incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip. These balloons incinerated thousands of acres of precious woodland in Israel in 2018. The same terrorists — the Children of Fire — were responsible for other attacks, including arson that caused wildfires in Turkey in 2020.

Elizabeth Chalecki believed that the possibility exists for our natural world to be used as a medium for terrorist acts. She urged world leaders to take heed of her advice, because attacks on natural resources were far more feasible than the oft-feared terrorist with a weapon of mass destruction.

She argued, “Resources are easy to access and vulnerable. Taking out a dam or poisoning a water supply would have far more consequences than a suicide bomber.”

Taking out natural resources is perhaps the easiest way to manipulate a population of people who rely on those resources — especially when you want them eradicated.

Chalecki said, “The difficulty of a far-reaching attack on a major city’s water supply is now merely a technological hurdle. I have no doubt that this will happen.”

She questions what would happen if terrorists were to target one of the controversial petroleum pipelines we rely on for gas. When a hunter accidentally shot one of these pipelines in Alaska, a $3 million spill resulted. Now imagine a situation where a group with sufficient resources were to launch an attack on that same pipeline. The costs would climb astronomically.

Chalecki added, “of the eight infrastructures that the FBI Infrastructure Protection Center has identified as vulnerable, water was the only one environmentally related.”