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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: The following is not so much about environmentalism, but it is about the efficacy of non-violent protest (against Middle East dictatorships).

    This film by Ruaridh Arrow is about Gene Sharp, a guy whose book 'From Dictatorship to Democracy' inspired peaceful, yet very effective protest in Egypt.

    Take a look at this clip:

    http://vimeo.com/20339869

    The full film came out on dvd in 2011.

    Gene Sharp in Wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Sharp

    Environmentalism and other movements could learn a lot from this great man, in my opinion.
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      Jun 1 2012: I totally agree with you. I almost feel as if the extremist tactics used involving the potential loss of human lives and monetary damage these groups are responsible for are giving the other side (whalers, et. al) more ammunition to fight for their cause. These hostile tactics are alienating the rest of the population since most people fail to feel much of a connection with ramming ships, throwing chemical bombs and using any number of tactics that these people are doing.
      While they are usually slow to start, peaceful methods can garner a much more unified backing by the people as a whole while not alienating those who are needed most to support your cause.

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