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Chapter 3 Ecoextremism and the Radical Animal Liberation Movement For more than two decades, elements of the radical environmental and animal liberation movements have demonstrated skill in implementing the leaderless resistance approach. Although the two movements have separate origins, over the years they have converged.Today there is considerable overlap in membership and a high degree of cross-fertilization. An element of misanthropy often runs through both movements as well. And both have adopted a similar decentralized organizational model in which activists commit acts of vandalism, and sometimes terrorism, without direction from a central command-and-control apparatus. Background The origin of the contemporary environmental movement can be traced back to the 1960s and grew out of the burgeoning counterculture in many Western countries .1 Antecedents of the movement can be found much earlier. According to the researcher Donald Liddick, the first intellectual effort to recognize the inherent value of the natural world was advanced by the transcendentalists, a New England dissident movement that arose in the 1830s and was highly critical of established churches. Inspired by eighteenth-century Romanticism and nineteenth-century writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, they exalted nature and introduced the notion of an “oversoul,”or a divine moral force, that inhered in every living thing. They saw the earth as possessing a spirit of its own, with humans representing just one part of a diverse, natural world. An organized environmentalist movement did not emerge, though, until the late nineteenth century. In his 1864 book Man and Nature, George Perkins Marsh outlined the principles of conservation and argued that human dominion over the planet carried a responsibility to safeguard the environment.2 Although usually identified as being on the political Left, the environmentalist movement has a long pedigree on the Right as well. For example, the roots of the “religion of nature” that figures prominently in some fascist movements can be traced back to the nineteenth century.The Enlightenment ideas of positivism, rationalism , universalism, and democracy that swept over Europe eventually spawned a countermovement known as German Romanticism. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin 61 of Species, published in 1859, added a scientific veneer to this development. Darwin ’s theory of evolution was later applied to the social sciences and transformed into Social Darwinism, which became popular in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Britain, its chief proponent, Herbert Spencer, used the concept to buttress laissez-faire economic policies. In contrast, in Germany it tended to take the form of nature worship and racial mysticism.The German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, for example, saw in evolution a unifying force that explained the cosmos as an allembracing whole. It was he who coined the term ecology.3 In 1904 Haeckel founded a group called the German Monist League, which stressed the oneness and unity of reality. A “world soul” was conceptualized as a project in which all forms of life evolved upwardly. Nature was seen as a neutral force, not favoring any particular race or species. Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” maxim, conceived after reading Darwin, applied to all creatures without favor. Out of this struggle, perfection would result. Inherent in the religion of nature was a strident critique of Christianity, which was attacked for turning people away from a reverence for nature. Instead of worshiping an anthropomorphic god, Monists emphasized pantheistic worship of nature. Monism gained popularity with the fledgling neopagan movement, as well as proto-Nazi groups, which shared a desire for the creation of a new Germanic faith as a substitute for traditional Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant. The Nazi race theorists saw existence as an eternal struggle in which only those having the requisite will would survive. Integral to the Nazi mission was restoration of the “natural order,” which would result in a “new man.”4 Despite this rightist pedigree, today there is very little overlap between the extreme Right and the radical environmentalist movement. The latter, with its leftist and egalitarian ethos, looks askance at the former’s racism and anti-Semitism.5 In the United States, the early conservation movement was composed primarily of representatives of the upper middle class and included such prominent public figures as Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president, and Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the Forest Service and later governor of Pennsylvania. Conservationists sought to promote human advancement by managing the use of natural resources, yet some people believed that the conservation movement did not go far enough and called...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826518576
Related ISBN
9780826518552
MARC Record
OCLC
802049025
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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