I left the United States for Sweden in August 1970 in search of an ecological society. I have not yet found it, but through the years I have caught glimpses, or premonitions, of what an ecological society might be like. This book is, among other things, an attempt to put those experiences into a broader historical and cultural perspective.
When I left for Sweden I had just graduated from a battle-scarred Harvard, having studied history of science and taken part in the antiwar movement and in the more all-encompassing "dialectics of liberation" that filled the air at the time (see Cooper 1968). I had stumbled into environmentalism a couple of years before, attracted by its combination of practicality and vision, its mixing of science and spirituality, and, perhaps especially, by its uncanny ability to make bedfellows of people with the most seemingly incompatible interests.
In those disheartening days, when the shrill, aggressive, voices of extremism were taking over the antiwar movement, and the war itself was intensifying beyond belief, environmentalism served for me to reawaken the spirit of camaraderie and collective creativity that had all but disappeared from radical politics, and were fast disappearing from public life in general. Environmentalism seemed to transcend the ideological disputes and other sources of division, like class, race, gender, and national identity, that were tearing apart the movement I had known, and had felt a part of, through much of the 1960s. It was not that the ideologies or social distinctions were not important; it was, rather, that the ways they were being discussed seemed to stem from another era. There was something fundamental about the new kinds of environmental problems that we were beginning to learn about - in our earth, in our skies, in our waters, in our homes, in our food, in Vietnam - that meant that we had to rethink most of the assumptions and beliefs that we had previously taken for granted. In particular, we had to learn to expand our ideas of solidarity and community and our notions of politics and social action so that we might be better able to take into account the diverse array of non-human beings that we shared the planet with.
The environmental movement, which some of us were starting to consider ourselves a part of, was certainly critical of the way things were, but at the same time, it/we were specific, constructive, even hopeful, in many of our emerging visions and practices. Before going off to Sweden, I had made a small contribution by writing a book about steam-powered automobiles as an "answer to air pollution" in which I presented the coterie of people who were trying to revive steam cars. They were an intriguing collection: air-pollution-control officials in California, innovative automobile mechanics, idealistic engineering professors, and even an entrepreneur of renown, William Lear of Lear jet fame, who had set up shop in Reno, Nevada, and was planning to enter a steam car in the Indianapolis 500 (Jamison 1970). I had heard that Sweden, whose government was supporting the Vietnamese, was also developing some interesting approaches to environmental protection, and I wanted to take a look, never imagining that I would stay this long. The book you are about to read is a kind of progress report on the journey thus far.
In the early 1970s much of my time was spent talking with scientists and government officials, who were justifiably proud of how effective they had been in reacting to the environmental crisis, as it was often referred to in those days. Sweden was the first country in the world to establish a state agency for environmental protection, and its parliament was the first to pass a comprehensive environmental-protection law. With some ecol-ogists from Lund, where I was living, I visited a lake near Vaxjo, where advanced methods of restoration were being applied to a place where the fish had largely disappeared. Later, I ventured further north to what remained of Lake Hornborga, where millions of kronor were to be spent in the following years dredging up what had become an overgrown swamp, so that the cranes that had traditionally stopped there on their way south would one day return (they have). And I spent some days on an island in the Baltic Sea, where scientists were developing an ecological systems model of the nature - society interactions in the sea, as an input into the environmental policy process (Jamison 1971a, b, c; Jamison 1973).
Eventually I made my way to a suburban house outside of Uppsala where a young geneticist lived with his family. Bjorn Gillberg was creating a different kind of environmentalism, writing newspaper articles about food additives and genetic risks, standing outside of supermarkets with leaflets to warn consumers about the dangers lurking inside, and, most dramatically, washing his shirt in coffee creamer on a television program to show what a common household product could (really) do. I remember being struck by the fact that there was no toothpaste in Bjorn Gillberg's house - he said you didn't need it to get your teeth clean - and I was also struck by how different he was from the scientists and officials with whom I had been spending so much of my time. He was taking science to the streets (Jamison 1972).
Gillberg represented the Swedish version of the international environmental movement of which I had started to feel a part. Indeed, in the early 1970s, Gillberg was the movement, at least according to both his own and much of the Swedish mass media's perception of things. In 1975, when other activists wanted to broaden the fledgling movement and one of them, a left-wing journalist, wanted to alter the orientation of the newspaper that Gillberg edited, taking up environmental issues at the workplace, Gillberg let the journalist go; and at the annual meeting of the national organization that Gillberg headed, a group of activists demonstrably walked out and started their own organization instead.
I too felt that there was something missing in Gillberg's approach to environmental politics. More was required than a natural scientific education and a strong will; there was also a need for a social and economic analysis, and, even more crucially perhaps, there was a need for an alternative vision and an alternative "practice" if environmentalism were ever to appeal to, and alter the consciousness of, the majority of the world's population.
Over the next few years, after moving to an old farmhouse with a big garden outside of Lund, where I have lived ever since, I found myself increasingly drawn to developments in Denmark, where I got my first academic job in 1974, teaching a course in science and society at the University of Copenhagen. Reading Danish newspapers and getting to know some Danish activists, it soon became apparent that the environmental movement was developing quite differently in Denmark. For one thing it was more of an academic affair, strongly based on students and young teachers, especially at the new universities in Aalborg and Roskilde, where environmental issues had come to be linked, according to the fashion of the day, to the Marxian "critique of political economy." For another, it drew on a populist tradition of rural resistance that had been mobilized in the nineteenth century, when, among other things, a network of "people's high schools" had been created in the countryside to provide the farmers with a more practical, but also more spiritual, form of education. Perhaps most intriguingly it was more experimental, practicing, more ambitiously than elsewhere in Europe, an alternative, or ecological, way of life, both in the renewable energy "wing" of the movement, as well as at the rural and urban collectives that were becoming such a visible feature of the Danish landscape (Jamison 1977).
In those years I met many Danish activists, people like Oluf Danielsen, a physics teacher at Roskilde and one of the more vocal energy debaters of the 1970s, and also a founding member of the Danish journal, Naturkampen (Nature Struggle); Preben Maegaard, a "grass-roots engineer," who established the Northern Jutland Center for Alternative Technology and helped to start the Organization for Renewable Energy (Organisation for vedvarende energi, OVE); and Peder Agger, another Roskilde teacher, of biology, and one of the founders of NOAH, in those days the leading Danish environmental organization, and now the Danish affiliate of Friends of the Earth. Peder also helped to establish the production collective, Svanholm, which is now a center for "ecological agriculture."
As the energy debate heated up in the late 1970s I became more involved in environmental politics, and I experienced the differences between Sweden and Denmark firsthand. In Sweden, we organized our opposition to nuclear energy as a popular front, which came to be dominated by the two anti-nuclear parliamentary parties - the left Communist and the formerly agrarian Center party. I helped to edit a journal that tried to offer a socialist voice, as well as some science and technology perspectives, to the opposition to nuclear energy. I even took part in writing, with some other local activists, a contribution to the Environmental Movement's Alternative Energy Plan, which was supported by the government and which was directed from an office at a government ministry by a young activist, who found our radical alternativism a bit hard to take.
In Denmark anti-nuclear activism, as it developed into a social movement, was more open-ended and experimental. With a group of students I visited some of the sites of alternative energy technology, such as Tvind, in western Denmark, where the world's largest windmill was being built by amateurs at a newly started people's high school. It was, in many respects, the same movement everywhere - "no nukes," or, as we put it in Scandinavia, "atomic energy: no thanks" (atomkraft nej tack) - but it was striking how the same struggle expressed itself so differently in different countries.
In our journal we tried to develop a theory of socialist ecology that drew especially on developments in Germany - where anti-nuclear opposition was more left-wing and militant than in either Sweden or Denmark -and in Norway, where environmentalism was a part of a broader movement against European integration. In the process, Norway had also spawned a home-grown form of ecological philosophy, by Arne N^ss and Sigmund Kvaloy, that was starting to be called "deep ecology." From the United States there seemed to be not one but many different kinds of movements developing: revitalized conservation organizations, locally based campaigns against nuclear plants and toxic-waste sites, the media activism of Greenpeace, as well as a number of ideologies that already then seemed to be in competition with one another: the social ecology of Murray Bookchin, the new-age politics of Mark Satin, the appropriate technology of Amory Lovins, the ecofeminism of Carolyn Merchant, to name some of those that I became acquainted with.
Meanwhile, environmentalism in other parts of the world was taking on still other shades of green, which I was able to follow rather closely, in 1978-79, as editor of the Lund Letter on Science, Technology and Basic Human Needs. The Lund Letter tried to provide a forum for discussion about the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development and, through it, I met not only a wide range of activists and academic "experts" throughout the world, but also came more closely into contact with the world of utopian practice. I went to meetings at the "free town" of Christiania, in Copenhagen, often staying overnight in a converted streetcar, and at the Frostrup camp in northern Jutland, and I soon met communards in Sweden and Norway and Finland who were living the alternative life rather than (merely) talking about it.
A stint as a journalist on the newspaper at the UNCSTD in Vienna in the summer of 1979 served to reinforce the impression that environmentalism was a broad, diverse, and extremely many-headed movement. It was in Vienna that I met Anil Agarwal, for example, who was on his way back home to India to start his Centre for Science and Environment after working in Britain for Earthscan. I also met David Dickson, a journalist for Nature, and one of the founders of the radical science movement in Britain, and author of the book that perhaps best captures the spirit of the 1970s: Alternative Technology and the Politics of Technical Change (Dickson 1974). In Vienna, I interviewed Robert Jungk, author of The Nuclear Tyranny, and listened to Ivan Illich, author of Tools for Conviviality, and, at the NGO (non-governmental organizations) meeting, which was my "beat" for the conference paper, I saw many examples of the alternative technology movement that, for me, was such a central part of the environmental activism of the 1970s.
From Vienna, I especially remember visiting the "people's forum" one evening with a fellow-journalist Ziauddin Sardar. It was a kind of gathering of the tribes, with representatives from communes and other counter-cultural organizations mixing, not too easily, with the more politically minded activists from anti-nuclear and development organizations. I recall that Zia, who was soon to go off to revolutionary Iran and discover another kind of politics altogether, had a rather similar reaction to the people's forum to mine; many of the projects that were on display were exciting and stimulating, but it seemed that the alternative, or utopian, activists had grown far too distant from the political activists. Could the gap between thinking and practicing, between theorizing about and living in the alternative ecological society, ever be successfully bridged?
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