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Ecotage (/ˈikəˌtɑːʒ/ EE-kə-TAHZH) is sabotage carried out for environmental reasons.[1]


"Stop Urban Sprawl" was spray-painted on this multimillion-dollar house to protest the development. Mansions in the United States are a frequent target by the ELF.

All damage figures below are in United States dollars. Some well-known acts of ecotage have included:

  • Circa 1969–1985; ecological activist James F. Phillips, operating covertly under the codename "The Fox", carried out a series of ecotage actions and subvertising campaigns against corporations that were polluting the Fox River in Illinois.
  • 1998 – Arson of buildings at Vail Mountain in the United States by the ELF (Earth Liberation Front).
  • March 11, 1999 – Genetically engineered potatoes uprooted at Crop and Food research centre in New Zealand.[2]
  • December 25, 1999 – In Monmouth, Oregon, fire destroys the main office of the Boise Cascade logging company costing over $1 million ($1.8 million in 2022 dollars). ELF claims responsibility.
  • 2001 – Members of the ELF were prosecuted for setting off a firebomb that caused $7 million in damages ($12 million in 2022 dollars) at the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture.[3]
  • 2003 – On August 1, a 206-unit condominium being built in San Diego, California was burnt down causing damage in excess of $20 million ($35 million in 2022 dollars). A 12-foot banner at the scene read "If you build it, we will burn it," signed, "The E.L.F.s are mad."
  • 2003 – On August 22, arsonists associated with the ELF attacked several car dealerships in east suburban Los Angeles, burning down a warehouse and vandalizing over 100 vehicles, most of them SUVs or Hummers (chosen for their notoriously poor fuel efficiency) and causing over $1 million in damage ($1.6 million in 2022 dollars).

In literature and popular culture[edit]

In their 1972 environmental-action book Ecotage!, Sam Love and David Obst claimed to have coined the word "ecotage" by combining "ecology" and "sabotage" to describe a "branch of tactical biology."

In fiction, the practice of ecotage was popularized in Edward Abbey's 1975 anarchistic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang and its sequel Hayduke Lives! (1990). It has also been treated in other novels including Carl Hiaasen's Tourist Season (1986) and Sick Puppy (2000), Neal Stephenson's Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller (1988), T. Coraghessan Boyle's A Friend of the Earth (2000), Dave Foreman's The Lobo Outback Funeral Home (2000), and Richard Melo's Jokerman 8 (2004). Radical depictions of environmental protection also inform major Native American novels including N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn (1968), James Welch's Winter in the Blood (1974), and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony (1977).[4]

Several books written specifically for children and young adults have also explored radical responses to environmental endangerment including Carl Hiaasen's Hoot! (2002), Flush (2005), and Scat (2009), Claire Dean's Girlwood (2008), S. Terrell French's Operation Redwood (2011), and Silas House and Neela Vaswani's Same Sun Here (2012).[5]

Ecotage is mentioned in the Mars trilogy of science fiction novels by Kim Stanley Robinson as a means of protest shown by the Red political party. Typically the "Reds" would destroy terraforming ventures in an effort to slow the terraforming of Mars.

The Concrete mini series Think Like a Mountain is centred about ecotage aimed to protect first growth forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Ecotage also informs movies such as Choke Canyon (1986) and On Deadly Ground (1994).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition ecotage".
  2. ^ Wild Greens Attack GE Potatoes, Genetic Engineering Network, March 11th 1999.
  3. ^ Bernton, Hal (October 5, 2006). "Local News | Earth Liberation Front members plead guilty in 2001 firebombing | Seattle Times Newspaper". Retrieved 2010-09-01.
  4. ^ Aitchison, David (2013-07-25). "Revolution as technē: place, space, and ecotage in the American radical novel". TRANS-. Revue de littérature générale et comparée (in French) (16). doi:10.4000/trans.851. ISSN 1778-3887.
  5. ^ Aitchison, David (2015-05-15). "Little Saboteurs, Puerile Politics: The Child, the Childlike, and the Principled Life in Carl Hiaasen's Ecotage Novels for Young Adults". Children's Literature Association Quarterly. 40 (2): 141–160. doi:10.1353/chq.2015.0018. ISSN 1553-1201. S2CID 142407527.

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