Column: The environmental movement is radicalizing, and that should frighten all of us
The case of a pipeline saboteur in Pembina County, N.D., is a perfect case-in-point for the dangerous radicalization taking place in the environmentalist movement.
Activist Michael Foster has been convicted of two felonies stemming from his participation in turning off valves along the Keystone I pipeline. He is awaiting sentencing as I write this, and potentially faces decades in prison and thousands in dollars in fines for his actions.
Other activists, operating on behalf of a group calling itself Climate Direction Action, attacked pipelines in Minnesota, Montana, and Washington at roughly the same time Foster was at work here in North Dakota.
Foster and his fellow zealots call themselves "Valve Turners," and their actions are hardly on the fringe of the modern environmental movement. They are organized by efficient and well-funded advocacy groups, and their attitude about their actions is becoming increasingly common.
For instance, Foster and his legal team used what's called the necessity defense in his trial.
They argued that Foster's illegal and dangerous actions were necessary to prevent greater harm.
Got that? Foster believes it was necessary to put a major pipeline at risk of exploding, potentially harming or killing people and certainly creating a not insignificant disruption in the delivery of vital energy.
Politics are always heated, but when a political faction believes their violent and unlawful actions are justified, a Rubicon has been crossed.
Sometimes justifiably. All reasonable people agree that the use of force against the Axis powers during WWII was right and proper.
But how about against the development and distribution of energy products we all use?
Even radicals like Foster use oil every day of their lives. I'm pretty sure he didn't get out to that pipeline valve in Pembina County on a pony.
During the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (Foster and his comrades were acting in solidarity with the #NoDAPL movement, remember) we saw no small amount of unlawful and violent activity.
Those people felt that instigating violent altercations with law enforcement, and terrorizing the citizenry of south central North Dakota, was justified because of their views on oil development.
Which isn't to say that concerns about the development and use so-called "fossil fuels" are unreasonable. That's a debate worth having.
Unfortunately a faction of the environmentalist movement has become so convinced of their own hyperbolic rhetoric, so certain in their dire predictions about the future of the environment, that they're willing to rationalize mayhem in pursuit of their political goals.
That should worry us all.