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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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  • Jun 3 2012: This question is loaded. Sea Shepherd Society threw stink bombs not explosives. Butyric acid is industrially prepared by the fermentation of sugar or starch, brought about by the addition of putrefying cheese, with calcium carbonate added to neutralize the acids formed in the process. It smells bad... that's about it.
    Eco-terrorism is a very weird concept, because as far as I can tell the ones causing terror to the ecosystem are the ones over-exploiting it. It is a deliberate attempt to draw attention away from the real criminals, and to allow over-zealous prosecution of those who would interfere in the ability of a corporation to profit.
    You can only push people so far before they feel the need to take action and get justice. If laws aren't enforced, and petitions ignored, is it moral to turn a blind eye?
    If ecosystems continue to be over-exploited, if species are threatened by commercial activity, if in 50 years the sea has risen a meter and is empty of fish, if the climate is causing crop failure, etc, etc (and I see no end to our over-consumption) then we may look back at these days and recognize that the heroes of the day were the ones who were more than just armchair activists and petition signers.
    The best way to stop extreme environmentalism is to make laws based on the latest scientific data and enforce them. The vast majority of terrorism has been against environmental groups, not by them. Remember the Rainbow Warrior?
    I am not a violent person in the least, but I can imagine if some profiteer was killing the orcas in my area I would reach a moral crossroads where after exhausting other avenues, the only option left would be to physically stop the people responsible. What would you do? And how would you explain it to your grandkids?
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      Jun 5 2012: It is true, the Sea Shepherd did only throw stink bombs. This example was used because of the amount of people who have heard about or have seen this show.

      In regards to your last question, I agree with you that I would likely also feel the need to physically stop people the people responsible. However, I would also likely have to ask myself if there a way to somehow physically stop the killing without becoming violent? On that note though, I honestly cannot say what I would do in that situation because I am not in it, and I am a true believer in until you are in a situation you don't really know how you will react.

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