TED Conversations

Amanda Hooper

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed.

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?

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jun 1 2012: Extreme and violent tactics are both immoral and ineffective. The general public will be much less likely to follow a group if they use violent tactics to get their point across. I do think that movements should have the freedom to protest and inform the public through the media and internet, but resorting to violence won't make the issue go away. However, bringing about change through a peaceful environmental movement can be difficult since change generally has to occur at the level of government.
    • thumb
      Jun 2 2012: Health,
      I agree , impulsiveness and force are not the right methods to change the minds nor ways of those engaging in inhumane acts against nature . All they they do is make a worse name for themselves. They startle the media and public but do not focus around the core of the issues. All I ever hear from the public relating ecoterrorism is animosity but not support.
      • Jun 5 2012: I agree with your point of view. Additionally, the actions of extremist groups tend to push individuals further away from supporting the cause. In the case of the individuals the extremist group is acting out against the actions cause callusing which ultimately closes their minds to any idea of change. Extremist groups need to cater more to the middle ground if they want efficient and effective change.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.