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Environmental Extremism—Let's Be Careful How We Define It

Some folks in the US have taken up the habit of not being able to utter the word "environmentalist" without putting the word "extreme" in front of it. So, what exactly is extreme environmentalism? Maybe they mean someone who practices some weird outdoor X-sport like body surfing down the soft branches of a tall white pine? (And no, the branches aren't so soft, and yes, it hurts.)

picture of a humpback whale breaching Are the critics right when they talk about environmental extremism? It may come as a surprise to find out that just about everyone in the mainstream environmental community also recognizes the existence of environmental extremists. Their definition of the term might include people who:

  • spike trees, endangering loggers;
  • sabotage and sink whaling ships;
  • burn down new luxury housing developments or set big SUVs ablaze.

Whether mainstream environmentalists harbor any sympathy for the underlying goals of these acts, they decry the methods. Violence and illegal property destruction are not a means to an end, and such methods tend to tar law-abiding moderate environmentalists with the same brush.

The next level down in the "extremism" hierarchy might be said to include those who gather in peaceful protest, tree sit, engage in non-violent civil disobedience, or harass whaling ships. This is a grayer category. Some would call one or more of these acts extremist, but others would not, saying that the acts are necessary to draw attention to situations that are otherwise being ignored.

picture of a whale fluke But the real problem with how the term "environmental extremist" is used these days is that it is often applied to EVERYONE in the environmental movement. Suddenly, those who petition for EPA enforcement of existing environmental laws, those who pressure governments to increase the effectiveness of pollution-reducing measures, and those who object to backroom deals between industry and our elected officials—suddenly, all of these people are "environmental extremists." If anyone stands in the way of the pro-industry agenda or challenges the system to do a better job of protecting people and the environment, they're labeled an extremist.

There are indeed some people who love the earth so much that they have lost perspective on the best way to effect change. They may try to justify their illegal or immoral acts as tit-for-tat responses to illegal or immoral situations. But that doesn't hold water with most environmentalists. Labeling these people "environmental extremists" is fair. But the majority of environmentalists are not extremists. Those who would call them extremists are themselves the extremists, resorting to name-calling to undermine those who would dare to disrupt their political and corporate agendas.

Well, speaking of agendas, the boss just called a meeting, which is fine—we can use a good nap.



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Songs for a Better Planet

Why dream about the future?
The sun is shining upon a world full of fear.
Please don't hesitate,
Before it is too late.
We dream about the future,
Where we'll be moving and choosing our own destiny.   more

Artist: Focus

Album: In and Out of Focus

Song: "Why Dream"

Category: Progressive Rock


album cover for Focus, In and Out of Focus We all have the power to change the future, and it starts with dreaming about a world different—better—than the one we presently live in. That was Focus's message in 1970 on "Why Dream" The rest of the album explores a variety of themes, some fanciful, some serious. The song "Black Beauty" is a majesty blend of progressive rock and classic romanticism; "Happy Nightmare" is a trippy journey through the downside of halucination; and "Sugar Island" takes another kind of trip, this time to Caribbean-flavored rock/pop. In and Out of Focus also introduces "House Of The King ," which would become one of Focus's best-loved tunes. Overall, the album is nice melodic progressive rock throughout and is one of the group's best albums.

Get more reviews, hear clips, or get purchase info for this album at

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