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environment | forest defense

Understanding the Ideology of the Earth Liberation Front

Most attempts at researching the ELF have failed to address the complexity and diversity of its members' ideology.
Most attempts at researching the ELF have failed to address the complexity and diversity of its members' ideology. Part of this failure rests in the fact that social scientists have spent little effort studying the radical environmental movement on the whole; and the majority of this research has dealt with either Earth First!, Greenpeace or the Sea Shepard - three organizations that embrace variants of biocentrism and/or deep ecology. By only focusing on the deep ecological influence, social scientists have neglected the historic role of social ecology and the contemporary affect of anti-civilizational thought on the radical environmental movement. This academic mischaracterization has produced an image of the radical environmental movement as under the hegemonic sway of deep ecology - a view of the movement that is not shared among activists. What is required, then, is academic research that better accounts for the ideological position of anti-civilizational thought within the current radical environmental movement, and more importantly for this essay, with those who promote the ELF.

While the heightened influence of the philosophy of social ecology and of green anarchism, in particular, on ELF communiqués seems clear upon their analysis, of the few studies that seek to specifically analyze the ELF, all have more specifically dealt with the historical, ethical, and organizational components of the organization and in doing so all contend that the ELF is deep ecological in its outlook (Taylor, 1998; Leader and Probst, 2003; Long, 2004; Somma, 2005; Vanderheiden, 2005; Liddick, 2006). This paper attempts to patch a hole in the current research by analyzing the ideology of the ELF as stated in key communiqués as I move towards an explanation of how the ELF differs from previous environmental movements. By analyzing ELF communiqués between 1996 and 2003, a complex and multi-variant group ideology emerges, one that I argue shifts away from the deep ecology perspective of EF! in favor of its own unique perspective of "revolutionary environmentalism." This revolutionary environmentalism, I maintain, incorporates components of deep ecology, social ecology, and increasingly over the last decade, green anarchist thought.