Tag Archives: violence

Eco-terrorist or hero? Did Wiebo Ludwig make the right choice?


How should you save the Earth?

On Earth Day this past Sunday, I decided to do something good for the environment—-and for my family and myself. I took up a large big box retailer’s offer to trade in my rusting, ancient of days, gasoline-powered, emissions-spewing lawn mower for a discount off the price of an environmentally friendly classic 20” push reel mower. So it was “no” to creating weekly a small amount of greenhouse gases and “yes” to another anti-obesity habit, i.e. physical exercise.

Of course, in my neighbour’s eyes, this will just be another confirming proof of my eccentricity. They are certain I’m strange—but harmless. After all, I NEVER spray the lawn with toxic herbicides to get rid of those cheerful, well-established dandelions. And I actually go out and regularly commune with my dandelions in order to pick the leaves to steam up for dinner. I’m sure my neighbours have concluded that I’m fraternizing with the weed enemy. But besides doing a little to save the Earth by this small gesture, it also saves me from paying for a bunch of spinach at the supermarket.

My neighbours just don’t understand what they are missing out on. Being Earth friendly can even help you improve your teenagers work habits. Why my almost 15-year-old was so enthused by the novelty of my new push mower that he even volunteered to cut the grass all by himself. And after the job was finished, he began openly musing about starting up his own entreprenurial business selling a “green” lawn cutting service using my new mower. Ah, what unexpected dividends could arise as a green technology transforms a video game-playing, couch potato into a go-get-her Canadian eco-warrior with biceps.

Yet is such a non-violent, stand-up-for-the-Earth choice (apologies to the occasional slugs and bugs that get cut up) in how one exercises appropriate environmental stewardship a better one than that made by the confrontational, Canadian eco-warrior Wiebo Ludwig, who died this year on April 9? Some people call Ludwig an “eco-terrorist.”

Which is the better, more effective path in the long run: A peaceful approach? Or, a more confrontation, violent approach?

Ludwig honestly earned his “eco-terrorist” reputation by blowing up sour gas wells in northwest Alberta in the late 1990s. He was making a statement to the oil and gas industry and the regulatory governmental agencies that they couldn’t ignore. Of course, they didn’t. So Wiebo eventually ended up in jail. He paid a high personal price to open up the conversation about the steep price that is being paid by aquifers, rural families, and their livestock in order to make possible the wealth and power of Western Canada’s oil and gas companies. Oil and gas development is not a completely win-win proposition for all.

But was Wiebo Ludwig right in the way he confronted the dark side to the oil and gas development of northern B.C. and Alberta?

Wiebo sincerely believed that the sour gas wells were causing his daughter’s miscarriages, as well as, the ill-health and even death of some of the livestock on his farm located near Hythe, Alberta. But because industry and government seemingly turned a deaf ear to Wiebo Ludwigs’s environmental complaints and even denied that there really was a problem to be resolved or mitigated, the man chose to act violently in response to his frustration. The legacy of Wiebo Ludwig is full of controversy and, in some quarters, opprobrium. Did he make the right choice?

Wiebo Ludwig was a complicated man. He had good qualities and bad ones, such as his capacity for anger. The Scriptures warn us about the danger of being an angry person:

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27 New Living Translation).

Wiebo also had a degree in Christian theology and was ordained as a minister for the Dutch Reformed Church. Consequently, he knew the Apostle Paul’s list of obligatory character requirements for the ministry:

An elder is a manager of God’s household, so he must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely [sound-minded] and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life [self-controlled]. He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong (Titus 1:7-9 New Living Translation).

The “sound-mindedness” that the Apostle Paul was requiring meant having an spiritual inner outlook that correctly balanced outward behaviour. While “self-controlled” meant that a minister must master himself from within. But the concluding point in this passage by Paul is that the servant of the Creator must use his talents and the situations that arise in life in the most productive means possible so as to change or persuade those who oppose “wholesome teaching.” One can’t accomplish this change with threats or force.

Wilber Wilberforce struggled within the British parliament for over 30 years in order to extinguish human chattel slavery. By peaceful means he changed a great deal of the social policy of the 19th Century’s superpower, the British Empire. And Wilberforce did it with amazing grace, though for decades he faced seemingly insurmountable roadblocks and reversals.

The Apostle Paul in writing to Timothy, amplified the qualifications of a servant of God, including the importance of a good reputation with non-Church members:

Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap (1 Timothy 3:7 NLT).

Wiebo Ludwig failed in this regard—however accurate his environmental complaint.

In the 21st Century there will be an increasing amount of environmental pollution that will negatively impact areas as small as a single neighbourhood, or as large as an entire geographical region—remember the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico due to BP’s massive oil spill. Environmental disasters will continue to occur because far too many corporate CEOs in their pursuit of profits and bonuses do not practice the golden rule — loving one’s neighbour as oneself So there will always be plenty of work for environmental organizations who protest such abuse of the Earth.

However, for those who would make a profession of Christianity, we must live and act according to the Scriptures when dealing with those who are polluting the environment. Our methodology as individuals should set the right example. With peaceful, persistent persuasion, we must make the changes needed to preserve God’s Creation, this rare blue and green planet that sustains our existence in the midst of the blackness of inhospitable space.
The Christian profession precludes the possibility of any form of political or environmental confrontation that employs some form of violence that might injure others — that is not the Christian way. A good end can never justify a violent means. No matter how egregious the environmental sin, it remains the Creator’s sole personal prerogative—NOT ours—to punish or to exact retribution upon those who are unwittingly or knowingly destroying the Earth (see Revelation 11:18).

When stepping on someone’s toes results in murder

On a pleasant late July evening in Victoria, B.C. two years ago, 16-year-old Mark Arrieta pulled out a handgun at the strident urging of his 22-year-old “friend,” Somphanvanh Chanthabouala, and shot at point-blank range three other young people, seriously injuring two while killing 20-year-old University of Victoria student Philbert Truong.  The shooting was the result of Chanthabouala feeling “disrespected” earlier in the evening at the Red Jacket nightclub by one of Philbert Truong’s friends, Thuan Le. A witness later said that Le’s disrespect was inadvertent, but literal. He stepped on Chanthabouala’s toes that evening at the crowded nightclub.

Quickly arrested after the shootings, Arrieta and Chanthabouala passed their time in the police station’s interrogation room by composing, singing, and dancing (in handcuffs?) a rap song that glorified another recent shooting in the news—that of a Victoria policeman.   Later, the judge presiding at the trials of Arrieta and Chanthabouala watched the CCTV footage of the accused performing their rap song that night and was struck by Arrieta’s and Chanthabouala’s nonchalant attitude towards violence that exhibited a “disturbing callousness.”

Most criminals hide their inner thoughts and feelings from the authorities. But Arrieta exposed his inner state by writing a bit of doggerel that was discovered during a routine search of his cell. He composed it while awaiting trial:

I ain’t got a heart bitch, I got an ice box…Packing for that action bitch u better know I got mine, Any type of situation, I ain’t got no hesitation, Imma real g [I’m a real gangsta] don’t compare me to an imitation.

A callous disregard for another human being’s life doesn’t happen all at once. After all, we aren’t born with a full slate of anger and hate. It takes time to build up a nonchalant attitude towards violence. In grade 4 Mark Arrieta was suspended for starting a small fire. The grade 5 teacher described in her reports that the 10-year-old version of Mark Arrieta whom she taught was disruptive, angry, and disrespectful. Before moving to Victoria from Toronto the troubled youth was involved in an estimated 20 to 30 fights. In grade 8 Arrieta was suspended for hitting a teacher and for bringing a knife to school.

Going from bad to worse in grade 9, Mark Arrieta rarely came to school and reportedly smoked pot every day. Arrieta’s last suspension from school in April 2008 was due to the now well-established pattern of fighting with other students and threatening a teacher. This last suspension from school came only five months before Mark Arrieta murdered Philbert Truong.

Like a missile veering off course, destruction was the inevitable outcome of this angry trajectory. Sadly, both Arrieta’s parents and the school system proved unable to effect a course change.

While awaiting trial, Mark Arrieta told the detention centre’s chaplain that his principle motivation in life had been to escape what he described as the “poverty” of his youth. He resented the fact that his hardworking immigrant parents couldn’t afford to buy him the luxuries he wanted. When other elementary students had something he wanted he became jealous of the material possessions belonging to others. He wanted money to buy the objects he desired.  After his last suspension, Arrieta moved out of his parents’ home, and into the alluring embrace of a “dial-a-dope” drug ring led by Chanthabouala.  Dealing drugs provide Mark Arrieta with lots of money and a like-minded social circle that shared his twisted materialistic values and his nonchalant attitude toward violence.

A long time ago the Apostle Paul warned future readers about what happens when a society turns it’s back on the God of the Bible and His teachings.

For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane.

[They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good (2 Timothy 3:2-4 Amplified Bible).

Even on a purely materialistic level of understanding we know that you are, indeed, what you eat. A nation that readily promotes and eats fast-food becomes swollen, fat, obese—in a word, physically unhealthy. This is simple, observable, provable cause and effect. So, why is it that we can’t see that when it comes to feeding the mind “garbage in does indeed equal garbage out”?

Our society overflows with images promoting endless mountains of “stuff” to sell us. It “entertains” us with images of every sort of violent act on our illuminated screens. Why our society even entices us to waste countless hours of our very short lives in this violence-rich entertainment milieux via interactive computer/virtual reality games. Billions and billions of dollars are being made in this greedy exploitation of the gospel of selfishness, materialism, and violence.  The whole world (mostly) has embraced these destructive values. Why should we be surprised when a young convert to selfishness, materialism, and violence goes overboard in youthful exuberance and acts out the images in his head?

Chapter 23 of the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the case of Mark Arrieta. If the people and institutions that had influence on this young man’s life had considered and acted to furnish this young man’s mind with the wisdom presented there, then Mark Arrieta’s life would have turned out differently. For, paraphrasing Proverbs 23:7, as a young man thinks in his heart so he will be.

What we think about and celebrate is of critical importance in determining who we are and what will be our future. Simply put, a good future will come to those who think about good things. But a bad future will come to those who think about bad things. The moral logic of the universe is clear. As the Apostle Paul concluded:

8-9Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies (Philippians 4:8-9, Message translation).