Imagining Other

The Natural Environment – Protecting the Planet.

Part 2: the environmental movement.


 [This section is also in part 8 of: Protest/”People Power”: (Social Movements in the 20th Century)]


                                                                                                                                                                        Links: Imagining Other Contents Page


                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Natural Environment:

                                                                                                                                                                                    Part 1 Introduction and overview of the problem and some solutions

                                                                                                                                                                                    Part 3 Environmentalism as Political Philosophy

                                                                                                                                                                                    Part 4 Climate Change


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Extra notes:

                                                                                                                                                                                    Environmental issues in Australia

Val Plumwood and the crocodile



The Green/Environmental Movement


These notes discuss the composition of the environmental movement, and controversies concerning its strategy and goals.




1. Overview of the movement (components, nature and significance of the movement):

(i) pressure groups, NGOs etc (see section 5 below)     #pressure groups

(ii) political parties (ditto) #parties

(iii) individuals  #individuals

(iv) is the green movement a social movement? #social movements

(v) how significant is the movement? #significance


2. There is no ‘Green social movement”: #not a movement

(i) the problem of motivating support for a green movement

(ii) there is not a coherent social movement with an agreed set of policies or a philosophy

(iii) in fact the movement is simply a new intellectual elite

(iv) the question of ‘sceptics’…


3. History of the evolution of the movement: #history

(i) from local to global

(ii) from ‘stewardship’ to a utilitarian to an ecological view

(iii) the international/global dimension #international


4. Theoretical and practical issues: #theory and practice

(i) The ‘four pillars’ of Green politics. #four pillars

            (a) ecological wisdom

            (b) social justice:

            (c) participatory grassroots democracy:

            (d) non-violence:

(ii) An environmental philosophy? #philosophy

                                                #Fritjof Capra

(iii) Science and Modernity. #science


5. More on the constituent parts of the movement: (Pressure-groups and NGOs, Parties).

            5.1 #pressure groups, NGOs, etc

            5.2.1 #Greenpeace

            5.2.2 #FoE - Friends of the Earth

            5.3 #The Green Party (England and Wales)


6. Updates on green politics



7. Conclusion, achievements?



8. Footnotes:

#UK government

#Green Investment Bank and investment in carbon-free shares.

#Europe and the environment


9. Sources:




The Green/Environmental Movement


1. Overview of the movement - it contains (along with ‘thinkers’ such as those described in Part 3):


(i) pressure groups and NGOs,

            A pressure group – obviously – acts to put pressure on responsible bodies (government, business/industry) for a specific goal. They are usually single-issue groups. Some may be based on self interest (though a green group is not likely to be, because its members don’t necessarily benefit – for instance, green policies may lead to cuts in the standard of living (cf. below under anthropocentrism), many are altruistic. A pressure-group is not a (political) party – it does not (usually!) seek to get someone elected, and it does not have a manifesto covering a variety of issues. On the other hand, of course a pressure-group may turn into a political party, as has happened with a number of ‘green’ groups (e.g. Die Grünen).


            NGOs: Non-Governmental Organisations: a broad term, used by the United Nations (where NGOs have representatives and can influence discussions). Those in the green movement include international bodies such as the IPCC… (for global warming controversy, see  sm8environmental2climatechange.htm). 


            Green groups also have interesting relationships/overlaps with other groups and movements: conservation, animal rights, (RSPCA?, RSPB - huge), transport etc: (e.g.) RTS... The radical wing of the movement may well have joint activities with other groups e.g. over the Iraq war, nuclear weapons, or even poverty and human rights. An early example of environmental action, based on protecting the right to ramble, was the Kinder Scout Mass trespass; see:

And see Mike Harding’s article

also:  - 2007 marked the 75th anniversary of the ‘illegal ramble’ on Kinder, an area of common land that had been taken over by wealthy landowners to cultivate grouse for shooting – the ‘trespassers’ were arrested and given jail sentences for riotous assembly!. 


(ii) political parties, e.g. the Green Party. Issues: (see below for more detail


The fact that ‘greens’ have set up their own parties shows that the green movement/green politics goes beyond traditional political parties/lines: why should environmentalism be seen as either right-wing or a left-wing ideology? On the other hand there is some common ground with both right and left political positions: members of the ‘old left’ oppose materialism and consumerism; and some on the right say ‘man’ is part of nature… The key point is that (radical) greens criticise both socialism and capitalism for their similarities in relation to the poor treatment of the environment, and would say that these similarities outweigh their apparent differences.


Another point to note [see details below #The Green Party (England and Wales)] is that by becoming a party standing for parliament, the greens have had to take up a stance on all sorts of issues (defence, NHS, housing, poverty etc). (See


(iii) individuals who are trying to adopt a green lifestyle, and who do not belong to any particular ‘green’ organisations. Clearly, if enough individuals change their values and practise ‘sustainable living’ then the threat to the environment would largely disappear. Of course, this is why a good many industrialists oppose a radical stance on the environment: what would happen to all the car manufacturers, the oil industry, etc, if no-one bought their products? The recent banning of flights during the eruption of the Icelandic volcano showed how different the skies could be!!!


(iv) the term ‘protest or social movement’ is appropriate, then, because (i) there are all these components, yet they are not bound together; and (ii) they all share the view that existing practices and institutions need to be altered, (though they disagree as to the degree of change that is needed); and (iii) they all say that we need a new philosophy, and/or set of new values – i.e. we must recognise the value of nature, and give it a higher priority. One explanation as to why there is a ‘green movement’ (an explanation used by such as Rudolf Bahro, and derived from Marxism, and especially from the failure of the working class to take up Marxist ideas) - is that as the environment is increasingly damaged it will affect all of us, rich and poor, capitalists and workers, people from developed and from developing countries; consequently we are bound to see a growing and widespread movement to protect the environment.


(v) So it can be argued that the green movement is significant, and Eyerman and Jamieson (1991) go so far as to claim that the green movement is “one of those especially significant movements which redefine history, [which] carry the historical projects that have normally (sic!) been attributed to social classes”. (They also say it incorporates “cognitive praxis” (!!): practice which leads to innovative knowledge claims). Melucci (1989) suggests the movement, together with the peace movement, are “testaments to the fragility and potentially self-destructive connections between humanity and the wider universe.” (Cited in Erika Cudworth’s notes for her 2003 book Environment and Society).


2. On the other hand, we could say that the ‘green movement’ is not a real united movement, and/or that it will not last (is it a passing fad?). For example:


(i) There is the argument (Barratt Brown 1984) that the scientific accounts of damage to the environment are not in agreement with each other, and it is difficult for non-experts to be motivated by complex scientific arguments (just as it was difficult to stir the workers with the complex theory and the arcane disputes amongst Marxists);


(ii) Whilst many in the movement agree that it requires new forms of action, there are very different organisations within the movement, and they differ significantly on action and on philosophy (see Yearley 1994), so perhaps the green movement is not a social movement.


In an analysis based on the USA, McCarthy and Zald (1987) look at the number of different groups concerned with the environment, comparing their different forms, their ability to organise, and their internal dynamics, etc. They conclude that there is a number of “Social Movement Organisations” (SMOs) which, although they might campaign together on some issues, also differ on other issues. For example, Greenpeace is not involved in the anti-roads movement, and opposes the Green Party on the question of law-breaking. These SMOs also compete for membership, backers, and coverage (as do businesses...) – so it is not correct to talk of a ‘social movement’.


(iii) From a ‘European’ point of view, Berger (1987) argues that what is happening is the rise of a new “knowledge class” rather than a social movement.


(iv) Finally, we can also see (and this may serve to underline several of the points just made) a growth in the voices of ‘sceptics’ (see elsewhere… rfc [csr6 envt updates, not uploaded] though I would say that these are a small group of non-scientists, who – consciously or not – are actually speaking for the interests of industry);


3. Brief History of the movement, (see also Part 1 of Protecting the Planet):


(i) Goodin points out that the movement has been through several stages: first there was concern with issues such as pollution and pesticides (Rachel Carson) – but solutions were seen as local or national; nowadays there is more recognition of a global problem and a need for global action.


(ii) There have also been several changes in the broad theoretical justification for environmental protection: first there was a notion of ‘stewardship’ i.e. we were entrusted by the Creator to take care of his creation; later came an awareness that care for the environment was needed in order to protect ourselves – a utilitarian view. Now, he says, greens have a view, involving a set of ecological values that are centred on nature for itself.


(iii) The movement is international: this is inevitable, it can be argued, because of the nature of the problem, especially of climate change/global warming (see sm8environmental2climatechange.htm). and because international organisations have now been involved (e.g. IPCC). Are international bodies such as the UN perhaps best able tackle the environmental crisis?


Some examples of the international dimension of the movement:


The first World Climate Conference was as long ago as 1979! (The functioning of greenhouse gases had been understood since 1896…). In 1990 the IPCC says climate change is a concern and human activities are likely to be involved. 1992 saw the Rio Earth Summit – The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is drawn up – the US, under Bush, refuses to sign. 1997: the Kyoto Protocol is signed by 141 countries, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Bush Junior opposes it). In 2002 the Larsen B ice shelf breaks up, dropping a piece of ice a quarter of the size of Northern Ireland into the Antarctic sea. In 2007 the IPCC and Al Gore share the Nobel Peace prize, and Al Gore’s film wins an Oscar.


Most greens would argue that international co-operation is a good thing, as it promotes international solidarity and peace, as well as co-operation on the problem. However, some suggest that the need to take an international perspective can cause conflict within the movement – e.g. are developed countries asking less developed countries to go without the standard of living that the rest of the world has reached? On the other hand, as Yearley (1992) points out, there are also many indigenous environmental movements: Malaysia, India, Brazil...  See especially, the work of Vandana Shiva. 


The Ecologist (April 2009) had an article on La Via Campesina (The Peasants’ Way) – a grassroots organisation to defend the way of life of peasants in developing countries and to resist globalisation. Launched in 1993, it draws on supporters in more than 60 countries across five continents. The 5th International Conference was held in 2008 in Mozambique. India affords an example of how the developed world has taken advantage of farmers in the less developed world: after the ‘green revolution’ in 1965, when (after a serious drought) India was offered High Yield Seed varieties by the US as a condition of receiving food aid. These needed pesticides and fertilizers which, again, the US would provide. The country also had to comply with terms of trade and ‘market competition’ that the developed world was promoting. After an initial boost in food production, the long-term result has been dependency and debt: the fertilizers and seed are, naturally, costly. They were also encouraged to grow cotton as a cash-crop – again, the high-yield seeds etc were costly, but what could they do? When India tried to modernize further in the 1980s, it was subject to Structural Adjustment Programmes, whereby financial support from IMF and World Bank was only offered on condition of neo-liberal reforms. When India joined the WTO in 1994, its markets had to be opened to compete with subsidised imports from the US – cotton prices fell, and India became the third largest importer of cotton in the world!


La Via Campesina does not simply ‘say no’ to global policies, it has developed an exchange programme to share skills (Campesino a Campesino). International campaigns now focus on ‘food sovereignty’… See


Recently (August 2010) the Vedanta company’s plans to mine for bauxite on a hill area in India have been blocked by the government. The government cited potential violation of forest conservation, tribal rights and environmental protection laws in the state of Orissa. The Niyamgiri Hills are sacred to local tribal groups. (G 25082010). - the campaign against the mine had received widespread international support, as well as opposition within the country.


For an example of corporate green-wash, see Vedanta’s website: !!! Note that the company has no connection with the Vedanta school(s) of Hindu thought, which are a philosophy of self-realisation or cosmic consciousness - though the name was no doubt conveniently chosen!


On the other hand, Greenpeace is alarmed at the prospect of Greenland drilling for oil offshore – Cairn Energy, a British company, has found signs of hydrocarbons. This does not bode well for the Arctic!

See also:


A Danish warship has stopped the Greenpeace ship Esperanza from getting near the 500- metre exclusion zone around Cairn’s wells. At the same time there has been a demonstration at the headquarters of RBS against its investment in oil and gas. Twelve Climate Camp (see section 5) demonstrators were arrested. 


4. Theoretical and practical issues: (see also Part 3 of Protecting the Planet)


(i) Green politics. The German Green Party adopted 4 pillars of green politics, which have been agreed by other green parties:


(a) ecological wisdom: to change our relationship to nature, (see further below, on an environmental philosophy)


(b) social justice: to ensure that all benefit from the way we relate to the environment, and that in particular the poor are not hurt by changes demanded by the rich,


(c) participatory grassroots democracy: as with (b) green parties are aware of the connection between our exploitation of each other and our exploitation of the natural environment. The slogan ‘think globally, act locally’ encapsulates this idea.


(d) non-violence: violence goes along with exploitation, and with the unfair distribution of goods and power; violence is ultimately behind all positions of power; it would be inconsistent to use violence to bring about a more fair and sustainable world.


According to this indicates that green parties draw on more than the green/environmental movement, since these ideas come from:

the peace movement (d),

the movement for civil rights (b),

and the labour movement (c).


There is, of course, plenty of disagreement (often within the movement) over these ideas: some (e.g. Goodin) suggest that relying on grassroots democracy may be problematic, as local solutions are not going to be enough to tackle world-wide problems. Some greens are even prepared to back authoritarian approaches to the problem (see Bahro quote in M Barratt Brown p 110), and therefore question even democracy. Non-violence is not espoused by the radical left, although they may support green aims. [See also below: #The Green Party (England and Wales)]


(ii) Environmental philosophy (see also Part 3 of Protecting the Planet and ‘alternative solutions’ in Part 1):


It is often argued (see my introductory notes) that environmental politics must be based on an environmental philosophy – though there is no agreement on which philosophy… Some arguments are utilitarian or instrumental (we need to care for the environment otherwise we will damage our own lives), others are less ‘anthropocentric’. For example, one of the most interesting new ways to think about the environment and nature is to argue for ‘rights’ for animals, and even for nature itself…  Some countries have attempted to put this into law, so that some aspect of the environment could be defended legally against encroachment on its ‘rights’.


Most greens would simply agree that we need to base our society on other values (Goodin 1992) than those we have at present (cf p22); these would include, I suggest, humility and compassion (Dobson?) for suffering animals, and, again, for plants and other living organisms – even for the whole of the natural environment?


Links here with alternative money and local communities etc – see csr8 inequality.


Fritjof Capra has tried to bring oriental ideas such as Taoism into ecological thinking (see next section). Others have turned to quite different religious/philosophical ideas. For example, Ecologist magazine, Jan 2009, has an article (by Nicola Graydon) on Mayan and Toltec ideas – see Don Miguel: The Four Agreements, which says that we have made four false ‘agreements’ a long time ago (to fit in with our families, cultures, race and religions) which separate us from each other, God, nature and the destiny of the planet. ‘Toltec’ means ‘artist of the spirit’ – we are spirits with limitless creative imaginations. For the Toltec, humanity is one strand in the vast web of creation, and ‘all of humanity is just one organ of the earth. The atmosphere is another organ, so are the forests and the oceans. Each organ creates the equilibrium on earth that we call its metabolism. As an organ of the earth, we are part of that metabolism… One of our functions… is to transform energy. We do that through what we call ‘awareness’… the human mind is programmed to dream: to perceive, to create a symbology, to create a story – and give a sense to everything that exists.’ But we are at present dreaming the right dream. 

The first notion in the Toltec code of life is ‘impeccability’ – not sinning, i.e. not doing anything that goes against oneself… Self-rejection leads to death [the death-wish?] but impeccability leads to life…


(iii) Science and modernity.


Within the environmental movement there are different (and perhaps conflicting) views on this:


(a) hostility to technology and modernity:

Given that there was a dramatic change in our relationship to the environment dating from the beginnings of the industrial and scientific revolutions (the ‘modern’ era), and given that much of the damage done to the environment is the result of the use of man-made machinery and chemicals, it is not surprising that there is a strong current in the movement that as hostile to science and technology. There is some overlap here with the ‘hippy’ trends in the 1960s, and with ‘alternative’ life-styles.


(b) the problem is industrial capitalism:

A more subtle argument is put by ecologists such as Rudolf Bahro (formerly an East German dissident communist, now a prominent Green): he argues that the problem comes from industrialisation based on capital accumulation, and he points out that both the so-called communist East and the ‘capitalist’ West have taken this route. (See Michael Barratt Brown 1984): ‘If the industrialisation of the world were to be completed, life on earth would be destroyed.’ Others have pointed out that if everyone wanted to live at the standard of living of the developed world we would need more than one planet earth to provide the resources. However, Bahro’s point is not simply that we will run out of resources, but that in the drive to exploit these resources to the maximum we are already destroying the natural environment – the Amazonian rain forest is being cut down, with an area the size of Germany destroyed every two and a half years.


Coupled with this, says Bahro, some of the technology that is most desirable to developed, capital-rich countries is nuclear power – and we have enough nuclear bombs to destroy the planet several times over! Naturally, greens who agree with this are opposed to nuclear power for the generation of electricity. [see… rfc csr6 envt updates…]


(c) science and technology can be used to help avoid an environmental crisis:

Many would argue that some greens’ hostility to science (as in (i) above) is simplistic: we could argue, surely, that it is the use to which science and technology are put that may be a problem, not the science/technology itself. (Though, to me, this does not seem an adequate response to Bahro’s point about capital-intensive technology). Environmental damage is caused by the actions of people, and can happen as a result of very ‘low-tech’ actions: some argue that burning dung for fuel in the less developed countries contributes significantly to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere; and there is evidence that pre-scientific communities seriously damaged their environment (viz: trees that were cleared from Cumbria; the Aztecs and others whose civilisation may have collapsed as a result of over-exploitation of the environment – coupled with climate change?).


There is also the point to be made that very modern technology (computers, the internet, GPS systems etc) does not pollute, and uses minimal power – though the problem of the heat generated by banks of computers in big servers has recently been acknowledged. Computers, moreover, may be essential in calculating precisely what is happening in the environment and making predictions. So it seems to me that a blanket condemnation of science and technology is not acceptable.


In addition it would be crazy to refuse to use science to remove pollution. More sophisticated car engines have undoubtedly reduced the amount of CO2 produced, but to cut down the damage caused by lead in petrol, we simply had to remove it. DDT had to be banned – though scientists then had to work on other insecticides.


Hence one part of the environmental movement aims to use science to criticise an excessive reliance on (or mis-use of) science (see U. Beck 1992, and “reflexive modernity”); from this perspective the use of scientific experts in the movement can only increase its effectiveness.


Against this view there is the argument that increasing reliance on experts and technical arguments will alienate the ordinary members of the movement.


(d) science is not the same as technology, but also what exactly do we mean by a ‘scientific approach’?


Behind all these questions lies a big discussion on (i) the need to distinguish between science (which is simply knowledge) and technology (the application of scientific knowledge, for a purpose – and the question then is: what purpose?); (ii) what exactly we mean by ‘scientific knowledge’ and ‘the scientific method’.


One approach to these questions is adopted by those who oppose the ‘mechanistic use of reason’ associated with the particular view of scientific method adopted by e.g. Malthus, Bacon, Newton, Descartes). Instead it is argued that we must adopt a more ‘wholistic’ or ‘organic’ approach. (See pp22) Others, e.g. Fritjof Capra believe there are links to be made with quantum physics to find a better understanding of science. (see: Bookchin, M in Dobson, 1995, p 40)



5. More on the constituent parts of the movement: Parties, Pressure-groups and NGOs  (e.g. Greenpeace, FOE, RTS, Earth First…):


5.1 Pressure groups, NGOs


The first of these date back to the 19th century (EC notes), and they tend to be conservation-based:


1865: the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society,

1889: RSPB (now the largest conservation group in the UK – 400,000 members)

1926: Council for the Protection of Rural England

WWF – and many others.


Other old-established organisations ‘overlap’ with environmental concerns e.g. RSPCA (for animal welfare), and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (1875), the BUAV (1898, also against vivisection), and the League Against Cruel Sports (1924).


More recently, more ‘specialized’ groups have been set up e.g. WDCS (whale and dolphin conservation), alliance to save the rainforests etc., as well as the (much) more militant Animal Liberation Front. The more extreme members of this group – and perhaps the movement as a whole – have been accused of putting animal lives before human lives. 


Worth mentioning as well are organisations such as Earth First (who have taken direct action to stop cutting down of trees and building of roads), Reclaim the Streets (formed out of the fight against the M11 extension and to defend Twyford Down). RTS has held ‘street parties’ to fight the ‘rule of the car’. FOE (see below) has got involved in these protests too.


Recently-formed organisations that have hit the headlines include: Climate Camp, and Climate Rush (the latter based on a suffragette tactic of ‘rushing’ on Parliament).


5.2 Two best-known organisations:

5.2.1 Greenpeace, formed in Vancouver, Canada, in 1971. Its British branch was set up in 1978. Its key aim is to ‘bear witness’ to environmental abuses through non-violent direct action interventions. Its membership grew in a dramatic way up to 1995 when it had 5 million members, spread around over 32 countries. Since then the membership has declined somewhat, I believe). It also aims to affect the views of governments and multinational companies, and has therefore also been involved in lobbying (some critics say this is making it into a more traditional, bureaucratic organisation). There is (has to be?!) a division between its ‘front-line activists’ and its wider membership, and the operations it undertakes have to be planned with almost military precision (and secrecy). This is especially true since the attack by the French secret services on the ship Rainbow Warrior, in which a photographer was killed – this was an attempt to stop Greenpeace demonstrating against French nuclear tests.


Effective protests include the boarding of the Brent Spar oil rig, 1995, leading to Shell abandoning the plan to ‘dump’ the rig at sea.


The main question raised by this organisation’s activities is whether it is right to be so non-democratic – it doesn’t believe that the winning round of public opinion will prevent serious environmental damage (it’s too slow, especially to stop specific incidents – and maybe even to stop global warming?). - review of a book on Greenpeace published by Guardian/Faber 2015.


5.2.2 FOE: Friends of the Earth was founded in San Fransisco in 1969 (its founder left the Sierra Club, an organisation to protect American national parks, set up in 1892). The UK organisation was set up in 1970. FOE is also prepared to undertake non-violent direct action. By the late 1990s it had organisations in 52 countries, 190,000 members in Britain, and claims to be one of the largest environmental groups.


Again, FOE broadened its aims to go beyond conservation to campaign against pollution and to opposing nuclear power. It argues that industrialised countries are mainly to blame, and critics large companies for their role. FOE adopted the (feminist) slogan ‘the personal is the political’: change must be both personal and political/societal.  Their 1995 mission statement includes the aims, to:

- protect the earth against further damage and restore it from current damage

- preserve ecological, cultural and ethnic diversity

- increase public participation and democratic decision-making

- achieve social, political and economic justice and equal access to resources and opportunities for women and men

- promote environmentally sustainable development at all levels.


Its structure is decentralised, and non-hierarchical, but it aims to be professional in the sense of being well-informed about issues – so it carries out research, and has used the public enquiry system to oppose nuclear power stations, roads etc. It has produced alternative Bills and green papers to those promoted by government. Jonathan Porritt was director from 1984 – 1990, and at the same time advised Prince Charles on environmental issues. Byrne (1992) says that most environmentalists vote for the Green Party, support Greenpeace, but join and participate in FOE activities…  


In 1977 FOE was instrumental in getting the Dept of Energy to set up a national domestic insulation scheme.


Tony Juniper was prominent in FOE (running tropical rainforest and biodiversity campaigns, then as campaigns director, then executive director) for 20 years (before standing as a prospective MP for Cambridge) – he ‘saw the light’ when tracking a rare parrot in Brazil: ‘I discovered the world population was one – it was effectively extinct in the wild. Finding it was an extraordinary moment. For me that was a metaphor for what was going on across the continent, and still is… I became very familiar with the bits of forest across the tropics that were about to be cleared away due to logging concessions being handed out by governments, World Bank projects, pipelines, road-building schemes and the activities of western trans-nationals… we needed to take a holistic view about the failure of the economic and political circumstances that lay behind all of it.’ (Interview, The Ecologist, April 2009). He identifies successes: Forest Stewardship Council labeling scheme, changing some regulations that govern the World Bank, Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. FOE also opposed GM crops being grown in the UK.  The Big Ask helped to lead to the Climate Change Act 2008.


Juniper is now senior associate at Cambridge University Programme for Industry (to improve sustainability), and works with the Prince’s Rainforest Project. On the main parties: Brown ‘gets global warming’ but then ‘asks OPEC to pump more oil’ – when the economic crunch came he put growth before the environment. The Lib Dems support environmental issues, but have a leader who is not concerned, the Tories are the other way round!


‘Now, dealing with all the crunches – resource depletion, population growth, global warming and mass extinction of species – requires getting down into the fundamentals of the economy. It requires culture change… but it also needs political change.’   He supports the ‘Green New Deal’ (see below). 


An example of a current campaign: The Food Chain Campaign – as £700 million of taxpayers’ money props up factory farming in the UK through the EU CAP, FOE wants farming subsidies reformed, especially to help organic farms; trying to get agreement to reduce forest loss from agricultural expansion; making sure healthy food is provided in schools, prisons etc; researching sustainable farming; make UK supermarkets etc accountable for their environmental impact; ensuring greater priority is given to the environmental impacts of global trade.


5.3 Parties:


The Green Party of England and Wales - see and for policies:


In England, the first environmental party was founded in 1972 by, among others, Tony Whittaker (Obituary Guardian10th May 2016: Influenced by the writings of Paul Ehrlich (who predicted a collapse if population growth and pollution were not checked) the party was called ‘People’ at first, then the Ecology Party (1975), then the Green Party (1984). The party grew quickly, with 40 groups in the early 1970s, and candidates standing in the election of 1974. Another influence was Edward Goldsmith’s Blueprint for Survival, which was signed by more than 30 leading scientists.


Only after 1979 did it have enough candidates for a TV election broadcast time. However, it usually only gets 1 – 3% of the vote in the UK (except when it got 15% in the 1989 Euro elections – perhaps a fluke?) – cf.  German and French Greens who routinely get 5 – 8% nationally and 10% + in European elections.


A factor in its lack of success is undoubtedly the First Past The Post electoral system... – but it is still a puzzle as to why it does not get more votes when so many ordinary people are involved (in pressure-groups etc) in protecting the environment?  Perhaps the party lacks ideological coherence?


Comparing it with the German green party, the latter drew on a broad range of left-wing and other groups, and consequently often had to compromise in its policies to avoid exacerbating the gap between the radicals (‘fundis’ and eco-socialists) and the reformists (‘realos’) in the party. The commitment to economic and social change is less obvious in the German green party’s policies than it is in the UK party. So, it may be that the German party is more successful because it is not seen as so radical and threatening. (Though others seem to argue that it draws on the young vote because it is more radical than the established parties in Germany – and unemployment has also been a crucial issue among the young, disillusioning them from established politics).


The UK Green Party has stuck to a definite ecological platform, coupled with such policies as:


-           for voting reform (STV), Bill of Rights, Freedom of Info, devolution to the regions

-           unilateral nuclear disarmament, leaving NATO,

-           on the EU: to strengthen parliament and weaken Council of Ministers,

-           to cancel third world debt, increase aid, spend more on sustainable agriculture

-           opposing nuclear energy, for resource taxation rather than VAT/income tax

-           no new roads – more canals, rail, buses; new planning regulations so no out-of-town shopping – more local recycling etc

-           a radical economic policy: no economic growth, restructuring and reducing international trade; opposing WTO, GATT; opposing multinational investment in Britain – rather: smaller companies producing for domestic market; local trade, barter, LETS, local banks...

-           on human rights: rights for women, gay, disabled, racial minorities etc

-           for animal rights: no vivisection by students except for some medical research; ending factory farming, and imports of rare animals, circuses use of animals etc.


Note: both the German and the UK Green parties have – ironically – suffered from their success in getting the green message across, since other, mainstream (‘grey’) parties have adopted some green policies (or said they will)…


Membership: is mostly comprised of professionals (50%) – especially from the caring professions, teaching etc; and many members are graduates.


Organisation: originally the UK Green Party had no leader, but 3 co-chairs – Jonathan Porritt and Sara Parkin left in 1990s because they wanted more hierarchical, streamlined organisation, and the membership didn’t seem to want this. Porritt also felt that ‘lifestyle politics’ and the ‘fringe’ beliefs of some members (communal living, vegetarianism, paganism) are alienating to the average voter. (Cudworth, 2003) Now, however, after a referendum in 2007, the party agreed to have a leader, and this is currently Caroline Lucas.


Electoral successes:


In 1999 the first UK Greens were elected to the European Parliament (Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert). In 2009 they had 2 members still, though they claim to have ‘narrowly missed trebling their number of MEP seats - The European Parliament now (2009 elections) has 48 MEPs (out of 736 representing 500 million people from 27 member states). The Greens are in alliance with the European Free Alliance Group, which totals 55 MEPs, and is now the fourth largest group in the Parliament (larger than the European Conservatives and Reformists group which Cameron joined). Greens were the only party whose support increased across every region in 2009.


In 2000 the first Greens were elected to the London Assembly, and Darren Johnson AM has been chair of the assembly. Jenny Jones AM has been deputy mayor of London.


In 2010 Caroline Lucas became the first Green MP, winning the seat at Brighton.


After the 2010 local elections they have 109 seats on 40 Principal Authorities.


Local elections 2011 – see Spring issue of Green World… Went into election with 116 principal authority seats on 42 councils, and emerged with 130 on 43 – net gain of 14 seats, and new high.


First ever Green councillors in: St Albans, Kings Lynn & West Norfolk, Bolsover, Stafford.


Brighton Greens took 33% of the vote citywide, taking 23 seats out of 54 (+ 10 over last elections) – Conservatives have 18, Labour 13. And Brighton has Caroline Lucas as MP.


- in European Parliament now (2009 elections) has 48 MEPs – 2 for UK… (out of 736 representing 500 million people from 27 member states) – in alliance with European Free Alliance Group totals 55 MEPs, now fourth largest group in the Parliament, larger than European Conservatives and Reformists group (which Cameron joined). Greens were only party whose support increased across every region

- they have called for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty…

- now have 123 councillors on 42 separate authorities  (Green World 65, Summer 2009)


Comparison of the Green party with other environmental organisations:


The Green party is in a sense more radical than Greenpeace/FOE in that it has a broader set of policies, going beyond preserving the environment and wildlife.


The ‘Green New Deal’ is seen by many as the only way to tackle the financial crisis and the environmental crisis at the same time: we need to invest for energy security (renewables etc), in a way that leads to low-carbon development and kick-starts the economy (creating ‘green’ new jobs and reducing unemployment)s. Tony Juniper (see above) also advocates ‘a new official measure of national wellbeing to replace GDP. It would include people’s life satisfaction, greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption, levels of crime, education and longevity.’


Its strengths may lie in its “tight package” of policies, but its weakness may be that it relies too heavily on the notion of personal transformation and lifestyle politics; this may lead to a limit on the number of people it will attract, and it won’t be, as a party, a strong enough agency for change... (Goodin 1992).


6. Updates on Green politics:


1. Dan Hind points out (Earthmatters) that people like Dick Taverne (“The March of Unreason”) accuse Greenpeace of being irrational. Yet Greenpeace has less than £10m a year, while advertising industry (excluding PR) has around $400 billion.


He also remembers tobacco executives saying in the 1960s “doubt is our product” (i.e. doubt that it will cause cancer).


2. ‘Greens are a puny force by comparison to industrial lobby groups, the cowardice of governments, and the natural human tendency to deny what we don’t want to see.’

George Monbiot, Guardian 21 09 2010

3. Andrew Dobson (letter, G 070711) argues that Mark Lynas and others are wrong to see the solution to the environment problem as being technological rather than political, and we don’t want a new environmentalism that is happy with capitalism (pace Susanna Rustin letter?, and mark Lynas whose ‘environmentalism’ is ‘market-friendly’) – especially when ‘the public’ is being blamed for the crisis, ‘any environmentalism worth fighting for must have equality, justice and the public good at its heart.


Another letter refers Lynas to e.g. Jay Griffiths, Alastair McIntosh and John Zerzan.



7. Conclusion:


The movement’s impact has been great (especially since the end of the 20th c.)… On the other hand, it has taken a good many years for some of the ‘messages’ to get through to the general public and governments. Nevertheless, the environmental movement seems to me to demonstrate how a number of diverse groups and prominent individuals, often with widely diverging positions in regard to action especially, can come together to bring about dramatic changes in how we think, and perhaps less radical changes in our activities.


8. Footnotes:


UK Government (Sep 2007): govt aims take back initiative on envt (from other parties…): support Severn barrage ( = 6% of UK electricity). But skepticism abt green taxes. Has also: introduced mandatory renewable generation obligation for electricity cies; got airlines covered by EU emissions trading, by 2012 0 but supports expansion of airports etc, excludes aviation from long-term CO2 targets; pledged include 5% biofuel by 2010 – but backed off higher taxes when lorry drivers went on strike; car tax changed: most polluting pay £400 by 2008; floated idea of personal carbon rationing etc.

Monbiot: “greenwash” – Blair govt has failed: 2 targets: 12.5% reduction climate change gases by 2012 (Kyoto), 60% by 2050, latter to be made legally binding. But cuts so far look like 12 – 17%, when need 29 -32% of 1990 levels. 2020 target won’t be met till 2050.

Likely increase from tpt = 7 -13m tonnes (govt says 4m) [Prof Mark Maslin, UCL]. In 1998 car mfrs agreed reduce ave to 140g per km (from 190), in 10 yrs real figure likely to be 164. Difference in bands of tax for fuel usage needs to be more punitive i.e. at least £150 – top shld be £1,800 is 215). Ave diffrc between bands £35. Biofuels: Dutch study finds palm oil prodn ten times worse than petrol (? Petrol prodn?!). Flying: under Kyoto internat air travel not count… Govt admits some incr from more flight (says 10.5 m tonnes 1990 - 2020), but only counts half the emissions, because only half the passengers are from UK! And doesn’t count other than CO2

See also on microgeneration… Ashley Seager [G 060807] cf cost of widening M6: £3bn or £1,000 an inch. Stern’s call for more spending now was not heeded. Motoring has got cheaper, train travel more expensive – there are 2 models of car that can do more than 70 mpg and soon a diesel mini. Fuel tax too low to make people change. No tax on air fuel is absurd: need rise in APD (air passenger duty). Feed-in tariff for renewable e, as in Germany: sets guaranteed price for consumer-generated electricity. Govt is providing grants for low-carbon bldgs, but cut them to make sure £80m allocated up to 2008 not run out. Small mfrs of solar panels etc going bust because lack of cash flow. Btn’s use of renewables rose by 10% last yr, to 4.6% of all e – Germany rose faster, to 13% - G has 200 times as much solar e cpacity as Btn. (500MW to 12) Negligible chance of mtg EU target (20% by 2020). Renewables Obligation not send clear price signal and aimed at producers not consumers. 

Achievements of New Labour on Open Spaces: Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, New Forest and South Downs made national parks, Commons Act 2006. Downside: planning law changes (not implemented) would give landowners more rights to change paths); Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 used to make trespass a criminal offence. Clean neighbourhood etc Act 2005 intended to allow closure of back-alleys in towns, used to gate paths; Dartmoor still being used for military exercises including live firing. (Open Space Society Summer 2010).


Green Investment Bank (GiB):

see also: roundtable discussion ‘Keep the climate, change the economy’ from same day’s paper:


Carbon-free shares:


Europe and the environment:


Targets set Jan 08: by 2020, 20% of Europe’s energy mix to come from renewables; most polluting industries to cut by 21% against 2005 levels by 2020. UK renewables target set at 15%, and currently only 1.3% is renewable. Cf. Germany: target 18%, actual 5.8% - and has 2/5 of Europe’s installed wind power. Sweden target 49%, actual 39.8%. France target 23%, actual 10.3%. Austria target 34% actual 23.3%. [G 240108].


UK is 18th out of 27 states in renewables league – biofuels proposals (10% target) need stick and must protect from land-grab etc, and main solution should be reducing speed of cars and re-designing cars (letters G) – 10% target is bad, and assumption that ETS (European Transfer Scheme) scheme will set high price on carbon is flawed (Oscar Reyes – co-editor of Red Pepper, writing book on carbon trading, G 240108). In 1st phase, EU was over-generous in allocations, so most plant didn’t use its quota of free credits – market value of credits collapsed.. companies made windfall profits by passing on imagined “costs” to consumer. Still are loopholes in 2nd phase – e.g. companies can import credits from global south.


UK contributes 3% of global CO2 according to Good Energy News Winter 2006.



My thanks to Dr Erika Cudworth, of University of East London, whose notes for her 2003 book I have used for this section!


9. Sources: 

Barratt Brown, Michael: Models in Political Economy, Penguin 1984

Beck, Ulrich, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, 1992, Sage

Berger, Peter: The Capitalist revolution, 1986, Basic Books

Byrne, Paul: Social Movements in Britain, 1997, Routledge

Capra, F and Spretnak, C: Green Politics, 1984 Hutchinson

Cudworth, Erika: Environment and Society, 2003, Routledge

Della Porta, Donatella and Diani, Mario: Social Movements: An Introduction, 1999, Blackwell.

Dobson, A: Green Politics 1990 Unwin; Green Political Thought 1995 Routledge

Eyerman, R; Jamieson, A; and Cramer, J: The Making of the New Environmental Consciousness, Edinburgh University Press, 1990

Goodin, Robert: Green Political Theory, 1992, Polity Press

Melucci, Alberto: Nomads of the Present, 1989 Radius

Pepper, D: Eco-socialism, 1993 Routledge, also: Green Politics; and: The Roots of Modern Environmentalism, Croom Helm 1984.

Shiva, Vandana: Staying Alive: women, ecology and development, Zed, 1988.

Yearley, S, Social Movements and Environmental Change, in Redclift, M and Benton, T (eds): Social Theory and the Global Environment, 1993, Routledge.




Bahro, R. 1984: From Red to Green, Blackwell

                  1986: Building the Green Movement, New Society 

Capra, F. 1982: The Turning Point, Simon & Schuster.

Capra, F. and Spretnak, C. 1984: Green Politics, Hutchinson

Chase, S. (ed) 1991: Defending the Earth: a dialogue between Dave Foreman and Murray Bookchin, South End Press

Davis, J. and Foreman, D. 1991: The Earth First! Reader, Peregrine Smith

Disch… ?

Dobson, A. 1991: The Green Reader, Andre Deutsch

                   1995: Green Political Thought, Routledge/ Unwin, 1990.

Goodin, D. 1990: Green Political Theory, Polity

Merchant, C. 1992: Radical Ecology, Routledge

Naess, A. 1989: Ecology, Community and Lifestyle, ed. Rothenberg, Cambridge Univ. Press.

Pepper, D. 1984: The Roots of Modern Environmentalism, Croom Helm

                                    1993: Eco-socialism: Routledge 1993.

Porritt, J. 1984: Seeing Green, Blackwell

Yearley, S. 1993 Social Movements and Environmental Change, in Redclift, M. and Benton, T. (eds): Social Theory and the Global Environment, Routledge.





Tony Juniper: What has Nature ever done for us? (Profile)


See (2002 catalogue):

Roszak, T: The Gendered Atom – on the sexual psychology of science...

Schumacher, E.F.: This I Believe and other essays

Douthwaite, R: The Growth Illusion

Greco, Thomas: Money – understanding and creating alternatives to legal tender

Lubbers, E (ed): Battling Big Business

Beder, S: Global Spin

Shiva, V: Biopiracy

McBurney, S: Ecology into Economics Won’t Go

Begg, A: Empowering the Earth

Etc …