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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: Talk about fighting injustice with injustice.
    Extremist tactics strips environmentalism of its humanity.
    Environmentalism would be loved for its nobility if it is carefully communicated to more people.
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      May 31 2012: I completely agree. These acts are scary and giving environmentalists and environmentalism a bad rep. I feel like environmentalists who use these tactics are so desperate to get their message out there and feel like time might be scarce, it is sad and I hope that one day awareness can be created without bombing whaling ships or poisoning juice.
    • Jun 4 2012: It is hard to argue with this. I only wish to point out two things. First off, not all extremist acts are the same. A group that refuses to leave a grove of trees about to be cut down are labeled extremists, but they are not the same as a group that sets logging equipment on fire. Secondly in the case of environmental extremism the extremists bring media attention to issues. If they keep extremist activities to a minimum and know when to stop I believe extremism should be tolerated.

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