TED Conversations

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: Terrorism is a cowardly way to push your views onto someone else through violence. Problems rarely, if at all are solved this way and it doesn't set the right example for how to deal with tough situations. The only positive way to more forward is to convince everyone that change is needed, allowing them to make their own decisions because they view it as the right thing to do. No matter how bad something might be, if you force me to change I'll resist. So it is clear to me that a bombing will only create more tension and hatred for the other party. When peaceful tactics are used, each side is respected and ultimately whatever the people want is the way things will go. This is demonstrated in Japan with whale meat sales.
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      May 31 2012: I agree with your point that when you force someone into something they are more likely to resist. For example I have no problem cleaning my house but when my roommate tries to force me to clean I automatically don't want to do it. There are much better ways of handling things than force. Legislation without consequences built in is often enough to keep people from doing something that is harmful.

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