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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: Using extreme methods will always hurt the cause more than it helpes. Whale wars is a case in point to the fact. People watch the show, and generally only remember the antics and the people accomplishing nothing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFmbA21RgKY
    "It's that lame of a subject that you actually side with the guys killing whales" ... "let's move on, I'm pissed"

    If you truly want to make a difference, you have to prove yur point using peaceful methods. Force the issue, and people will shun you.
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      Jun 1 2012: Sometimes people won't listen to peaceful methods because they are too "quiet". Is there a way to make people care and have issues be heard in a peaceful way? Although people mostly remember the antics of the people on the show, they remember that they are preforming these to try and stop whaling. Therefore, are these extreme antics not also contributing to the fight against whaling in a positive way by making people aware of the issue?
      • Jun 2 2012: Contributing? Perhaps! Damaging the cause/issue? Definately! In order to make a real difference you have to raise peoples awareness of the issue. Raising peoples awareness is possible through peaceful methods just the same as through extreme/violent methods. However by doing it through violent measures you also alianate many people from siding with you.
        Example: You can get into the news just as easily blocking heavy machinery from deforrestation by peacefully standing in its way as you can by blowing up it's wheels/tracks. However by peacefully standing in the path, people will notice while at the same time seing that noone is hurt; so they can support you. By doing it violently people will think of the damage you have done, and the potential injury to others your action could have done. And so will be reluctant do support you.

        For instance, when thinking about sea shepherd I do not think of how many animals they may have saved. I think of how much damage they have done to the environment by dumping tons of robes, bottles, acid and even boats in the oceans.

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