The legitimacy and ethics of environment activism are often discussed by legislators and journalists. People, who are engaged in this activity, can be regarded as fighters against corrupt practices of companies. However, at the same time, they can be viewed as criminals disrupting the life of the community. In many cases, this form of civil disobedience can be criticized by governmental officials. Overall, it is possible to argue that environmental activism helps to increase public awareness about the problems community faces; however, this activity can be justified in those cases, when it does not pose a threat to the property and lives of other people. This is the main argument that should be elaborated.
At first, one should discuss the benefits of environmental activists. It should be kept in mind that in many cases, existing legislation does not prohibit unethical practices of corporations or governments. This issue has been discussed in Letter from Birmingham Jail written by Martin Luther King. This author argues that legal and ethical standards may not coincide with one another. In order to prove this point, he refers such phenomena as racial or ethnic discrimination that was once legitimate in many countries (King 78). Therefore, one can agree with people who protest against the practices that threaten environment, for instance, one can mention whaling or overfishing. Provided that no action is taken, it is unlikely that any improvements will ever be made.
A similar idea has been expressed by Edward Abbey who believes that environment activism can be viewed as a form of self-defense (Abbey 3). In other words, an individual has a right to protest when he/she sees that other people destroy environment. Moreover, this author notes that in many cases, the government is very inefficient, and it is unable to prevent various malpractices (Abbey 4). Judging from this perspective, one can say that it is the duty of citizens to express their discontent with the policies of the government or businesses. To some extent, it is possible agree with this argument, because one should not assume that the government can eliminate every form of injustice without the assistance of the public. This is one way of looking at the problem.
Nevertheless, it should be taken into account that environmental activism can sometimes produce adverse effects. For instance, very often protesters can damage the property of companies. Moreover, sometimes they can block roads or bridges, and in this way they can create inconveniences for people who are in no way related to the unethical practices of businesses or governmental organizations. One can also refer to activists who attempt to disrupt whaling. It is possible to say these individuals pursue a noble cause, but at the same time, they can affect the performance of many small businesses. Provided that environmental activism leads to such consequences, it can hardly be justified.
Overall, environmental activism is a necessary part of modern life, because it raises the standards of social responsibility. Moreover, it increases the awareness of policy-makers about possible malpractices. Thus, it has beneficial effects on the life of a community. However, protesters should remember that their activities can affect people who do nothing wrong. So, they should make sure that their civil disobedience does not turn into deviance or crime. These issues are important for the legitimacy and morality of environmental activism.
Abbey, Edward. “Forward!” Ecodefense: A Field guide to Monkey wrenching. Ed. Dave Foreman and Bill Haywood. New York: Abbzug Press, 1993. 3-5. Print.
King, Martin. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Atlantic Monthly 212. 2 (1963): 78- 88. Print.