TED Conversations

Amanda Hooper

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

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?

+3
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • May 31 2012: Commercial whaling is and should remain illegal under the terms of the IWC moratorium of 1982 which came into effect in 1986. I would like to see the moratorium enforced in the case of Iceland which currently ignores the ban and resumed it's commercial whaling activity in 2006. The so-called scientific whaling which various countries carry out is clearly a disguise to allow commercial whaling to continue, the whale meat is sold as a 'byproduct' of this 'scientific' research. Yeah right.

    Disrupting an illegal/banned activity which continues under a thin veneer of legality or simply continues in violation of the regulations is surely just enforcing those self-same regulations?
    • thumb
      Jun 1 2012: Great point Terry! I think a lot of the extremist acts directed towards commercial whaling comes from the frustration of non-enforced policies and loopholes in the system. Japan is allowed up to 935 "scientific permits" for Antarctic minke whales per year, 50 for fin whales (endangered!), and 50 for humpback whales (endangered!)! This is a horrible management practice under the IWC, especially for populations of cetaceans that are endangered. I am not a proponent of using violent demonstrations, but I do sympathize with the activists in regards to their anger towards commercial whaling. I have only watched Whale Wars a handful of times...but I found myself rooting for the eco-terrorists out of my passion for saving cetaceans!
    • thumb
      Jun 3 2012: Terry, While I agree with you that the '86 ban on whaling should be enforced, in full with no exceptions, I do not believe that eco-terrorism is the way to do it. It becomes a prime case of the pot calling the kettle black. If these groups want to do something effective they need to PUBLISH the votes of the legislators supporting the illegal activities world-wide. Evil and hubris can not stand the light of day...

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.