A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Earth First! Then Prison.

William Cottrell was sentenced to over eight years in prison today for his part in the firebombing of SUV dealerships in California. I’m really, really happy about this one; I despise left-wing fanatics like Cottrell every bit as much as I despise right-wing fanatics like Eric Rudolph. Of course Rudolph’s crimes are much more serious – luckily no one died in the SUV bombings – and thusly Cottrell’s punishment is considerably less.

Firebombed SUVs (AP Photo) Posted by Hello

But eight years is still a goodly chunk of one’s life, especially in federal prison. He will suffer there; it is a place unlikely to be friendly to a soft young man who studies physics at Caltech. And with federal crimes you serve the entire sentence … there is no early parole or time off for good behavior.

Perhaps it might seem strange coming from me, but I think there are some good arguments against SUVs. They are gas-greedy and unnecessary for the average person; owning one is usually more of a status symbol or image thing (“Look at me, I’m ready for anything in this!”) than it is a matter of practicality. I don’t think they should be outlawed or anything, I’m just saying that some of the environmental arguments against them have merit. If you need one for the safety of your kids or because you really do drive off-road a lot, then fine. But if you have one just because it’s trendy I believe you are on shaky ethical ground (gas prices being what they are, your financial ground probably ain’t too solid either). And no one who owns one should dare call themselves an environmentalist; those who pontificate about how we must “protect the planet” while driving themselves or their family around in an SUV are guilty of rank hypocrisy. I find their position laughable at best.

In any case, justice was served today with the handing down of Cottrell’s sentence. Like Eric Rudolph, he will pay the price for his fanaticism and the misery it brought to many lives. A lesson here, I think: Radicals are the enemy of us all – be they from the left, right, or any other political extreme – and we do well to deal with them harshly.