If that headline seems ridiculous to you then you can understand my dismay as the concept of torching SUVs in the name of saving Planet Earth. But despite the lack of logic in such thinking, members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) recently set fire to Hummer H2s and other SUVs at a Southern California dealership. This same group also spray painted words like "Fat American" and "I love pollution" on various SUVs in the Southern California area.
One of the more common arguments against such activity is based in the fact that the air pollution caused by a burning Hummer H2 is far greater than the amount of air pollution that same vehicle would have emitted over its lifetime of operation. When you consider the level of emission control devices on modern cars and trucks, and the resulting level of pollution they emit, it's not difficult for a burning SUV to cause more environmental damage than a driving SUV even if it drives for several hundred-thousand miles. Last year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had to ask for money to upgrade its emissions-measuring equipment. Apparently the tailpipe emissions of modern cars are so low that the organization's existing equipment couldn't measure it. We also know that various technologies are on the way that will make the internal combustion engine a near zero-emission device. Nissan already achieved this goal back in 2001 with the company's Sentra CA and more models are likely, especially after sulfur-free gasoline goes on sale nationwide.
So we know that modern cars, even large SUVs, make a tiny fraction of the pollution they made just 10 years ago. And we know that in the next five years they will emit a tiny fraction of what they emit today basically becoming zero-emission vehicles. This movement toward increasingly clean vehicle emissions was in place long before the ELF torched any SUVs, and it will likely be far more effective at "saving the planet" (and without the side effects of sending a lot of pollution and carcinogens into the atmosphere).
But regardless of the environmental damage caused by the ELF, what really disturbs me about such activity is the terrorist nature of this organization. Whether burning down an apartment complex in San Diego County or burning SUVs in Los Angeles County, these people are participating in wanton destruction of private property with the very real possibility of human injury and death. Sure, according to the group's Web site, the organization will "take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and nonhuman" but setting things on fire and "taking all necessary precautions" seem a bit contradictory. Maybe the ELF has some special level of control over a burning vehicle that I'm not aware of. If somebody had seen the flames from the dealership fire and wandered onto the lot to investigate just when those flames reached the fuel tank, well, there's a good chance a human would have been harmed. And what the heck is a "nonhuman" anyway? I know plenty of SUV owners who have more than just a utilitarian relationship with their vehicles. Does such a relationship elevate these vehicles to the status of "nonhuman"?
The reality is that once a person or group of people decides to participate in violent and destructive activity they simultaneously cross the line from activist to terrorist. Trying to somehow rationalize when "it's OK" to participate in terrorist activity is a fool's folly. Most of these organizations like to believe that if their terrorist behavior causes social awareness and, eventually, a change in policy, then they were successful and their actions were justified. For this exact reason I've decided to take the opposite standpoint meaning whenever a person or group of people participates in terrorist activity I become very aware of their goals and then I take the opposite view and never look back. I guess you could call it my own philosophical "terrorist anti-venom."
So if you torch SUVS in the name of saving the planet, I'll feel that much less worried about buying a Hummer H2 and making it my daily driver even though I have no need for such a vehicle. I mean, hey, if I let it sit on a dealer lot some ELF joker might come along and torch it, which, compared to me buying it and driving it for 150,000 miles, would be far more destructive to the planet.
And please, no letters trying to claim that what the ELF did wasn't really terrorism or how there is some sort of nobility in its actions. While I'm sure people who subscribe to the ELF's philosophy honestly feel that way, we all know that simply having full faith in your actions doesn't always make them right.
If it did that would make the actions of 18 hijackers a few years ago "OK" because they were simply trying to raise social awareness of an issue in an effort to bring about change.
Sorry, I don't buy it. I'm an equal-opportunity terrorist hater. Regardless of race, creed, color, national original or ultimate goal, if you believe the path to change is to initiate violence and destruction against private property and non-military personnel you're wrong, end of discussion.