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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 31 2012: extreme tactics can only result in forward progress if the so called tactics are civil. Killing and extreme violence wont result in positive progress.
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      May 31 2012: Even if the actions are not violent, do you not think that "civil" extremism is a productive means of manifesting change? Personally, I think extremists (peaceful and otherwise) give environmental science and stewardship a bad reputation. I equate it to having someone yell their opinions to an audience in an attept at pursuasion, which is often followed with the covering of one's ears. People tend to not want to listen to extremists, and for that reason, I think forward progess in this manner is rare.
      • May 31 2012: Drew, you have a really good point about giving associated organizations/causes/and activists a bad reputation. I have struggled with my opinion on the most effective means of any kind of activism are. Clearly there needs to be a balance between actively pressing, educating and fighting for an issue and not appearing too aggressive. Some individuals of whom I have tried to worked with led me to not want to partake in some environmental acts because of their anger towards the opposite side. It is sad to say that the reason in which these extremist people are the way they are is because they are passionate about what they are fighting for. It disappoints me that passion has turned into extreme polar anger. I think that it is important for all people to place themselves in the opposing sides' shoes (extremist or not). This is, in my opinion, the most effective way people can find that fine line between extreme and effective.

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