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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: I believe that no matter the final cause, using violence and fear to spread your message is not the way to make change in today's democratic system. While environmentalists (or any other group of protestors) may feel powerless against larger, better funded, corporations and landowners, they must remember that extreme and violent actions are almost always viewed negatively by the general public and will ultimately turn people against your cause.
    While education campaigns are slower and MUCH more difficult, they are the only way to ultimately sway public opinion. People will only put effort in if they expect rewards as a consequence, so the goal of Environmentalism should be to educate people on the rewards they will receive from supporting these policies, as opposed to trying to scare people into Environmentalism with doomsday predictions and threats.
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      Jun 4 2012: I agree that violence will usually turn the public off on the movement and distract the public from the real issue at hand. With the internet, education campaigns can spread much more quickly than ever before; from videos on Youtube, to conversations in forums and other social media sites, there are many ways the public can become informed on a vital environmental issue.

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