Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Tom Koontz


In a world where climate change brings us ever closer to human-made catastrophe and, simultaneously, corporate interests fiercely oppose those who protect the environment, the work of environmental activists is now more critical than ever. Primarily, this work that environmental activists engage in is wielding rhetoric (symbolic communication) in as effective a way as possible to sway public opinion. However, effectiveness cannot be the only determining factor when choosing a rhetorical strategy: ethics complicates the matter. To shed light in this important area—the intersection between the ethics and effectiveness of rhetorical strategies employed by environmental activists—is the goal of this article. I do this by first describing a body of research on the ethics and effectiveness of rhetorical strategies that are used by radical environmental groups that follow the pattern set by Greenpeace, which is the largest environmental organization in the world. I look specifically at how these groups communicate with the first-world public. Next, my analysis continues into my case study: Greenpeace’s online campaigning against Indonesian palm oil, and Greenpeace’s general canvassing techniques. My literature review and case study are arranged with a neo-Aristotelian framework. I come to the conclusion that Greenpeace employs ethically problematic rhetorical tactics, and that other strategies might prove to be more effective in achieving the organization’s long term goals.