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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: Crimes are not and will never be non-crimes even under the slogan of GREEN.
    In my view. The extreme tactics themselves are against the purpose of environmentalism, which is to better the earth, the environment, for all human beings. If extreme actions, especially those aims to harm other human beings, are taken, then the so-called environmentalists are not environmentalists at all.

    GREEN is just camouflage of crime
    • Jun 6 2012: Charles,
      I completely agree with you. Not only are the tactics used by these "eco-terrorists" counterproductive, they are also an insult to those of us who truly care about the environment and wish to see a change. Fighting fire with fire is not an appropriate solution to the problem our environment is facing. The best we can hope for is that these groups do not encourage further retaliation. These violence centered groups give a bad reputation to environmentalism, and yet because their acts often make the news, they are what many citizens are coming to see as the "face" of environmentalism. This is unacceptable.
      All that being said, it is not hard to see what these groups are hoping for. When you build up enough anger at a situation, it is often difficult to channel such passion conscientiously. If environmentalists who do not believe in these extreme acts were to reach out to these radical groups, try to help them see the harm they are causing, and provide alternative ways for them to channel their energy, perhaps we can incite a change?
    • Jun 6 2012: The original focus of the environmental movement was simply the protection of the environment from human harm. Nowadays the focus of the mainstream environmental movement seems to be all about sustainability and allowing the continuation of consumer society with some consideration for it being sustainable but it mustn't threatens jobs or the economy. To me the movement has lost some of it's original focus.

      Don't get me wrong I think that some sort of post industrial society with the benefits of technological advance is desirable and possible, but the main thrust of the environmental movement should return to protecting the environment first and worrying about jobs and industry a very distant second, if at all, time is running out folks...
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        Jun 6 2012: There is _some_ connection between jobs and the environment though. In various polls, the recession seemed to have caused people to put environmental issues at back of their minds, because they need jobs to make a living and provide for their families. I think for a lot of people, if they have no source of stable income, they'll do whatever they feel they need to.

        Also, wasn't there some sort of correlation between poverty and increased habitat destruction? There's a reason why people are cutting down rainforests in South America.

        My point is, I think the focus of the environmental movement started 'shifting focus' as you say, because people are realizing more and more that it's all connected. People, jobs, social issues, environmental issues, and so on.

        We should still protect the environment, and all the ecosystems, but it's going to be connected to people no matter what, is what I'm trying to say.

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