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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: I think extremist tactics are often what drives many of the negative views on certain advocate groups like environmentalists. And if they don't already, they certainly will, if we begin more extreme approaches to get what we want done. I also think that in regards to making political changes such as environmental progress, violence almost never works.

    Extreme acts like the examples Amanda points out are reasons that the government or policy makers would not want to consider the extreme environmentalists' wants. As a parent, you don't give your child what they want if they are screaming and crying about not getting it. If you do, it sets a precedent that that kind of behavior is what needs to be done to get what they want. And as children, we learned that that is not how you get things that you want or feel strongly about. Extreme and violent actions, even if they are done for a good cause makes the people doing them look like whiny children.
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      Jun 1 2012: I totally agree with your views on extreme tactics. I understand that people get frustrated and this drives some to try and capture the attention of the public in extreme ways, but this is very similar to a temper tantrum. I think that to get respect in the community and to face this issue in a fitting manner, more reasonable approaches must be taken.

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