All Commentary
Wednesday, November 1, 1995

Is the Unabomber an Ecobomber?

The Unabomber's Actions Represent Environmentalists' Goals

Mr. Caruba is the founder of the National Anxiety Center, which monitors “scare campaigns” in the media. All rights reserved.

The assault-by-mail terrorist known as the Unabomber is likely to kill again despite the decision of the Washington Post and the New York Times to publish his manifesto. The decision, prompted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the F.B.I., will only delay the inevitable.

Lost amidst the controversy surrounding the decision to publish under the threat of renewed killing, is the fact that the Unabomber’s views and actions reflect the true agenda of those who, since the 1970s, have been the driving force behind the environmental movement.

The Unabomber’s crusade is the logical end result of a movement which holds a deep distrust and contempt for humanity, technology, and what is generally understood to be progress in diverse areas that include agriculture, the science of genetics, medicine, computer technology, and just about anything that contributes to a thriving economy.

In a letter to The New York Times, he said, “Through our bombings we hope to promote social instability in industrial society, propagate anti-industrial ideas and give encouragement to those who hate the industrial system. . . . The people who are pushing all this growth and progress garbage deserve to be severely punished.”

To any participant or observer of the environmental movement, it’s fairly astonishing that anyone could have failed to notice that views comparable to the Unabomber’s have been appearing in print for more than two decades, since the inception of the environmental movement.

In a 1970 book, Ecotactics, which featured an introduction by Ralph Nader, statements comparable to the Unabomber’s can be found on every page. An unidentified writer for a group called ECOS rants against “an aggressive technology and economic system, which, in a rush to provide for and to profit from the human population, destroys other forms of life and contaminates our environment to a degree unprecedented in human history.” The writer rejects “a world in which the individual is victimized by the impersonal machinery of his technology.” While decrying violence, the writer concludes that “The only natural resource left on this planet that man seems unable to reduce to the disaster level is the capacity for discontent. Our organization, Environment!, is designed to harvest this resource and apply it to the complex problems of survival.”

The ECOS writer was right at home with Nader’s introductory view that Americans were living in a society of “oppression and suppression” by business and industrial entities. Thus, Nader’s first priority was “to deprive the polluters of their unfounded legitimacy.”

In a New York Times article on June 30, reporter Robert D. McFadden hinted at the contents of the Unabomber’s 35,000-word manifesto. It “sketches a nightmarish vision of a deteriorating society and a future in which the human race is at the mercy of intelligent machines created by computer scientists. . . . Out of the chaos, he expressed the hope that a return to `wild nature’ might prevail.”

In contrast, writing in his book, No Turning Back: Dismantling the Fantasies of Environmental Thinking, Wallace Kaufman says, “Our progress has been the result largely of Western science and technology. Unlike cultures that have only feared and revered nature, industrialized cultures have pursued dominion over nature and subdued most of its dangerous tendencies, achieving what no other culture has done. No other tradition has developed a sophisticated technology capable of feeding six billion people and monitoring the condition of the environment.” While the Unabomber was selecting his victims, Kaufman wrote, “A movement that rejects this tradition is dangerously out of touch with reality . . .”

Fellow Travelers

Who shares the Unabomber’s view of industrialized society? Paul Erlich, the population doomsayer; Lester Brown whose Worldwatch Institute has been predicting worldwide environmental disaster for decades; and even our Vice President, Albert Gore, Jr. In his book, Earth In the Balance, Gore says, “The edifice of civilization has become astonishing complex, but as it grows ever more elaborate, we feel increasingly distant from our roots in the earth.”

Since the 1970s the U.S. environmental movement has imposed a huge matrix of laws that have gone beyond setting reasonable standards for the environment. As a result, whole sectors of the economy have been impeded. Environmental laws currently represent thirty percent of Washington’s entire regulatory budget. But the burden of the economy is only half the story. Disaffected, though dedicated, environmentalists have raised voices of alarm and warning concerning the beliefs that drive the Unabomber. Called “Deep Ecology,” the Unabomber’s philosophy fuels groups like Earth First! and fanatical animal rights advocates. In his book, Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism, Martin Lewis noted that deep ecology is a philosophy best labeled “antihumanist anarchism.”

In fact, there are several “schools” of deep ecology or environmentalism. They include primitivism, antihumanist anarchism, and eco-Marxism. Lewis notes that “primitivists advocate not merely the return to a small-scale social order proposed by other deep ecologists, but rather the active destruction of civilization.”

“Primitivist” may be a good description of the Unabomber, but it really doesn’t matter what label is attached to him. His actions represent the goals that ultimately emerge from the core values shared by those who seek to direct the environmental movement worldwide.