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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 6 2012: In my opinion, extreme tactics bring more attention to the action than cause. Whenever I hear about these types of protests/acts 90 percent of the time I gain no real understanding of the cause the group is "defending". Even organizations like Peta are over dramatic and too radical for my taste.
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      Jun 6 2012: I agree with you, Emil. Extremists often omit the informational piece during their protests and actions. True, people may understand what they are fighting, say animal cruelty or hunting, but their reasoning is often left out. It's one thing to take a stand for what you believe in with extreme action, but in order to initiate real change you need public support. Very few people will stand behind a person with crazy tactics if they can't or don't explain the issue and the reasons for their actions.
    • Jun 6 2012: Perhaps you are being distracted by how the "extreme" protest is reported by mainstream media. The protestors are often portrayed as over-zealous hippies. I have never seen a protest where I couldn't figure out what problem they were concerned with, though at times I have had to do more research to educate myself on the matter. Many environmentalists are absolutists and overly passionate/extreme but very rarely are they doing their actions for immoral reasons. Is it moral to allow the last patches of virgin rainforest to be logged for short-term profit regardless of the legal right that company has to slash and burn? Who gave them that right to deprive future generations of the biological wealth? Who gave oil companies the right to extract a non-renewable resource at such prodigious rates? Let's burn all the oil but let's take 10,000 years to do it, not 35 more!
      I suggest you all know, or can find out very quickly the details of the issues that environmentalists are concerned with, but most of you don't want to be associated with people who have been vilified and portrayed as wackos, violent or otherwise.

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