Make love, not war? Radical environmental activism’s reconfigurative potential and pitfalls

Tema Milstein, Lyn McGaurr, Libby Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


New radical environmental action movements are attracting large numbers of diverse actors who inevitably will take inspiration and learn from mistakes of those radical environmental organizations that precede them and continue today into middle age. The representational strategies of these established organizations are of specific interest as they enter a maturity phase that coincides with the planet experiencing an unprecedented anthropogenic moment of reckoning – a time when more broadly engaging and transformative activism is paramount to reconfiguring ecological, societal, and spatial orientations. We focus on Sea Shepherd, a global ocean protection organization founded in the same decade as many other formatively radical organizations, to examine its historic and current representations of its direct action stance; its multiple and at times conflicting positioning of cetaceans; its emphasis on celebrity and timely campaigns; and its longstanding military, war, and piracy framing – much of which has garnered attention based on appealing to news values of conventional media outlets. We illustrate ways direct action may be framed as in opposition to current extractive practices (against framing) or as a collaborative means to thriving futures (with framing) and consider ways activism frames might eschew violent clashes and celebrity long valued by conventional media outlets and speak more to today’s broader internet-savvy populations and to the reconfigurative potential of guardianship, interconnectedness, and nurturance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-316
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • against versus with framing
  • cetaceans
  • direct action
  • ecocultural communication
  • ecological–individual dialectic
  • environmental communication
  • protest
  • Radical environmental activism
  • Sea Shepherd
  • self-representation
  • whales

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