James Lee, the gunman and hostage taker who was shot and killed by a SWAT team in the Discovery Channel Building in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the latest of a long line of eco-terrorists who have killed and maimed innocent people for over three decades.

The quick and decisive action by the Montgomery County Police Department enabled Lee’s three hostages to escape unharmed, a happy ending to an incident that brought the scourge of eco-terrorism to the gates of the nation’s capital. Before he met his end, Lee issued a manifesto which contained a set of demands aimed at the Discovery Channel.  While his demands come from a deeply disturbed mind, they are rooted in an apocalyptic environmentalism that we have seen before.

“Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution,” he wrote.  “All programs on Discovery Health TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroism behind these actions,” he went on. Lee told Discovery to “[f]ind solutions so that people stop breeding as well as stop using OIL in order to REVERSE global warming…For every human born, ACRES of wildlife forests must be turned into farm land in order to feed the new additions over the course of 60 to 100 YEARS of that new human lifespan.  THIS IS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FOREST CREATURES!!!!”

These rants call to mind the ravings of another disaffected loner whose propensity to violence far exceeded Lee’s. Harvard-educated Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, better known to the world as the “Unabomber,” became a recluse in his cabin in Montana, where he railed against the destruction of nature by development. From 1978 to 1995, he sent 16 bombs to targets that included universities, airlines, a timber executive, computer store owner, and others, killing three and injuring 16. Shortly before his capture, he, too, issued a manifesto in which he bemoaned humanity’s loss of rapport with nature and wrote that the “industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.”

As disturbed as people like Lee and the Unabomber may be, they draw their sustenance from a toxic brew known as Deep Ecology. Although it originated at the outermost fringes of the environmental movement, Deep Ecology is a school of thought that has profoundly influenced environmental activists, including those willing to resort to violence. The brain-child of Norwegian-born philosopher Arne Naess, Deep Ecology rejects the idea that some living things have greater value than others.  In 1984, Naess and environmental activist George Sessions put together a Deep Ecology Platform of eight principles, two of which are of particular interest:

  • “Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive and the situation is rapidly worsening.”
  • “The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease in human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.”

Environmentalist Dave Foreman, who directed the radical Wildlands Project for 12 years, said it best when he opined that humans are “the cancer of nature” and the “optimum human population of earth is zero.”

With such toxic fumes wafting their way through the environmental movement, some were bound to pick up where the Unabomber had left off. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carried out acts of violence all across the U.S. By 2003, the FBI estimated that the two organizations had committed over 600 acts of terrorism over the preceding seven years. ELF terrorists set fire to a ski resort at Vail Mountain, Colorado and torched an apartment complex in San Diego, California. ALF activists trespassed on a mink farm in Washington state and “liberated” 10,000 minks.

According to the Maryland Gazette, James Lee was influenced by Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.”  While Gore’s controversial documentary does not advocate violence, the film’s catastrophic vision of earth’s future and man’s alleged role therein, will weigh heavily on the psychologically vulnerable among us. Let’s hope that Lee’s case is an isolated one and that we’re not facing a resurgence of eco-terrorism. The country has enough problems as it is.


  • Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

    Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.