LAW4249 - Environmental activism, ecoterrorism and the law - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.




Dr Gerry Nagtzaam

Quota applies

The number of places available for a unit taught in Prato is strictly limited to 45. This is the maximum room capacity at the Prato Centre.

Not offered in 2017


This subject is designed to provide both a comprehensive and critical introduction to global ecoterrorism. The subject introduces students to the broad political challenges raised by the global environmental crisis both in the developed and developing world. The general historical evolution of international environmental law and policy will also be analysed. Attention will be given to the major environmental, economic and political tensions that have both shaped and constrained the evolution of 'ecoterrorist' groups.

The subject will in particular focus on the key individuals and major 'ecoterrorist' groups that have grown up as disillusion with the pace of environmental change within global society has increased. The subject will critically analyse the key groups often categorised as ecoterrorist including Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It will focus on their founders, historical development, key philosophical beliefs and practices. Students will be encouraged to draw on theoretical debates to identify the ways in which modern ecoterrorism has tested and/or reinforced the traditional assumptions, ideologies, arguments and institutions of international environmental law and policy.

Students will be challenged to develop and refine their ability to analyse critically the different ways in which environmental problems and risks are perceived, framed and managed by differently situated actors within an ecoterrorist context. The subject cover the international and domestic legal responses to ecoterrorism. The subject also contextualises the major legal developments by examining the key state and nonstate actors and institutions involved in the negotiation, settlement and enforcement of law relating to ecoterrorist activities. Finally, the evolving nature of international ecoterrorism law and policy, including problems and prospects for the future, will be critically examined.


Upon successful completion of this unit students are expected to

  1. demonstrate a general grasp of the historical evolution of international environmental law and policy in response to the increasingly global nature of ecological problems
  2. demonstrate a broad understanding of the diverse ideological character and claims of the modern environment movement and the major lines of contestation in the broader global environmental debate
  3. be able to identify the different ways in which new environmental issues, actors, interests and agendas have challenged the basic norms and institutions of global governance, particularly the system of sovereign states, environmental multilateralism, and the norms and institutions of global economic governance
  4. have a general understanding of the role of key individuals, actors and institutions involved in ecoterrorist activities
  5. recognise the tensions and debates within the national, international and global communities, about the role of direct action and ecoterrorism
  6. recognize and critically analyse the key groups often characterized as ecoterrorist including Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  7. be able to evaluate critically the different global institutional responses to global ecoterrorism
  8. have developed an appreciation of cross-cutting and emerging issues of international environmental law such as human rights, indigenous people, war and the environment and the perspectives of various actors in evolving those issues.
  9. have developed an ability to think critically and present a reasoned argument in relation to key developments and problems in international ecoterrorism law and policy
  10. be able to make an assessment of where global ecoterrorism can be expected to develop in the future.


Individual seminar presentation (1,000 word paper submitted to the lecturer combined with a 20 minute presentation to other class members on a chosen topic): 20% and a take-home examination of 4,000 words maximum: 80%.

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. The unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)


LAW1101 and LAW1104 or other equivalent introduction to law courses offered at another University.