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Amanda Hooper

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Do extremist tactics push environmentalism forwards or backwards?

Burning down buildings, spiking trees, bombing whaling ships, and poisoning fruit juice. These are examples of protest by groups known as eco-extremist or eco-terrorism groups. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) describes eco-terrorism as, “ the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.” Simply, ecoterrorism can be thought of as acts of violence in support of environmentalism.


The documentary-style reality show “Whale Wars” follows an extremist group that throws bombs at whaling ships to discourage them from whaling. Instead of convincing them to stop, the bombs anger the whalers. Groups like Greenpeace have been working peacefully to negotiate the termination of whaling, and they have been successful. For example, in 2010 Greenpeace Japan activists worked with retailers to significantly cut the demand for whale meat, which in turn decreased the number of whales hunted. Also through campaigning, Greenpeace has helped the people of Japan become aware of corruption in the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) and the whaling industry. The FAJ has since acknowledge this corruption and started to right the wrongs of the Japanese whaling industry, resulting in a reported 30% drop in whale meat sales as of January 2011.

Can extreme tactics ever result in forward progress similar to the progress Greenpeace has made in Japan?

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    May 30 2012: The simple answer to this question is: Yes, extreme tactics by eco-terrorists can be very useful to incite positive environmental change. For instance, if they bombed every whaling ship, there would be no more whale hunting. Simple right?

    But, do the ends justify the means? Can two wrongs make a right? Cliches aside, ultimately it is more important to go about improving the outlook of the environment using peaceful, insightful, and cooperative methods. Bombing high-polluting factories would not change the mindset of those polluting. Factories would be rebuilt and the cycle continues. I think for real change to occur, profitable alternatives to current environmentally destructive practices will have to be developed.
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      May 30 2012: I definitely agree that there can be changes at a cost. The reason why "Whale Wars" has gained so much attention is because of the extreme activities of the crew members. This garners attention and, while it may not necessarily shed a positive light on them I feel like it at least has broadened the audience that knows more about the whaling industry. The issue here I believe is more cultural however. How can we create a cultural shift to where people won't hunt endangered species like some of the whales seen on the show? Also, how might our culture come to allow the harvest of sustainable mammal populations without encountering significant extremist intervention?

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