From traditions to movements

Like many, if not all, social movements, the environmental movements that developed in the 1960s and 1970s did not emerge from nothing. Although many of the formative issues were new, and many of the forms ofprotest and practical activity were innovative, the substantive content of the environmental movement was derived from many sources (Eyerman and Jamison 1991: 66ff). The movements, we might say, served as a catalyst for the mobilization, or creative recombination, ofseveral distinct traditions of ideas and practices.

Particularly important in the historical context of the 1960s was the mixing of inspiration from both the cultural and the political revolts that had erupted in that turbulent decade. The environmental movement combined the neo-romanticism of the counterculture, with its questioning of material-based progress, with the political radicalism of the so-called new left. Many early environmentalists represented a sort of hybrid hippie-marxist, emphasizing both the spiritual and the political dimensions of the environmental "crisis." But there was also, from the outset, a touch of practicality thrown in for good measure, a constructive urge that inspired many a technically minded activist to take part in the emerging movement.

In many countries there was a significant generational tension between the new movement, with its youthfulness and radicalism, and the more staid, established, forms of nature protection and conservation which had emerged in the late nineteenth century. All of these different motivations eventually led to processes of specialization and professionalization, as well as to the changing strategic orientations, which have given environ-mentalism its characteristic, pendulum-like rotation between fundamentalism and realism. As Tom Athanasiou, a longtime American activist, put it:

Environmentalists live double lives. As activists and politicians, even as technicians and entrepreneurs, they must think their efforts worthwhile, they must believe they will win. In these roles energy and initiative are essential, and it is optimism, not any depressive realism, that opens paths to profit and advantage. Yet greens are lost without their darker suspicions ... It is a movement commonplace that political diversity is crucial, that radicals back up pragmatists, stiffening their spines, and that the two groups combine into a stronger force than either could muster alone. (Athanasiou 1996: 104)

Complicating the picture even more, environmentalists have made use of both political and cultural forms of expression through the years. And they have generated both new aesthetic practices, or cultural impacts -songs, performance rituals, "new age" music, environmental art - as well as the more directly political impacts: green parties, policy initiatives, legal and administrative reforms. At one time, especially during the struggles against nuclear energy in the 1970s, environmental movements in many parts of the world carved out new kinds of public spaces, or alternative public spheres, where the cultural and the political could be combined in popular fronts and mass campaigns. At that time, environmentalism was not merely a political challenge to the powers-that-be but also, for many of its participants, a new "historical project," a vision of a fundamentally different way of life and knowledge-making. In a number of utopian writings, such as Hazel Henderson's Creating Alternative Futures (1971), A Blueprint for Survival (1972), Ivan Illich's Tools for Conviviality (1973), Marge Piercy's Woman at the Edge of Time (1974), Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia (1975), as well as in living manifestations of ecological, or utopian, communities based on renewable energy technologies and organic agricultural techniques, environmentalism represented a practical utopia, a not-yet-existent realm of harmonious relations between human and non-human nature.

As has been the case with other social movements that have articulated ambitious utopian visions, the diverse mixture of interests and bedfellows that were combined in the environmental movements proved to be a rather combustible combination. By the late 1970s, as the struggle against nuclear energy heated up in many industrialized countries, the unity of the fledgling movements was put severely to the test, and deep contradictions emerged (seeRudig 1990; Flam 1994). Particularly intense have been the recurrent conflicts between the radicals and the reformists, which have developed wherever and whenever political choices have been forced on environmental movements. But there have also been the different personal strategies, or career trajectories, that have led to divisions among activists due to the different opportunities - be they economic, cultural, or political - that have been available.

Over the years, alternative ecological practitioners, rural communards, business-minded scientists and ideologically oriented activists have tended to pursue different life paths. What had once been, or at least felt like, a relatively coherent movement for many of its participants has therefore come to be divided into a wide variety of differentiated organizations, sects, parties, discourses, and practices. Many more people have come to be involved in environmental politics, but the underlying meaning of what they do has changed from a process of collective identity formation to a variety of translation processes: what was once a common message or vision has taken on a wider, and more variegated, range of meanings in different social contexts or life-worlds.

As traditions became the "resources" that were mobilized to meet new social challenges, something significant happened to them. The separate streams or "roads" to (political) ecology were recombined into new and often competing sets of values or projects. The movement drew on many and disparate sources of inspiration to develop its own unique form of collective identity, or cognitive praxis. And as they confronted power, and tried to take part in political decision-making, the movement's members chose different strategies or approaches to pursue their aims. Some wandered down the country roads that John Denver sang about, trying to live more in tune with nature and provide examples, or ecological lifestyles, for others to follow. Others took on the power elites directly and displayed their anger in public by sailing into the radioactive fallout, as the founder of Greenpeace, David McTaggart, did so dramatically in the early 1970s, or by occupying the building sites of nuclear energy plants or airport runways to try to get the wheels of progress to stop. Still others went into business with one or another technical "fix" to the environmental crisis, devising clean machines and greener production processes.

In the ensuing decades, the strategies have led to different organizational choices, different alliances, different campaigns, and, as we have occasion to observe throughout this book, they have come to have competing, even contradictory, meanings in relation to social and cultural transformation. Some environmentalists have become card-carrying members of the establishment, propagating a reformist path to the future ecological society, while others continue to seek to establish a fundamentally alternative society and liberate themselves from the confines and constraints of the dying industrial society.

Besides being interesting in their own right, these dialectical processes perhaps provide an indication of how human cultures change direction, and, more specifically, how societies appropriate new kinds of tasks or projects. The term dialectics refers to the contradictory nature of human development that was first discussed by ancient Greek (and Chinese) philosophers and has since entered social and cultural theory primarily through Hegel and Marx (Kolakowski 1978). What is fundamental to a dialectical understanding, or perspective, is the recognition ofconflict as a driving force of social change, and an emphasis on what might be termed the process of recombination: the resolution of contradictory positions into a new "synthesis."

In this chapter I explore the changing relations to the traditions of ecology that have characterized the "life-cycle" of the contemporary environmental movement. In the following chapter, I complicate the story by showing how environmentalism has been affected by national cultures with their own characteristic policy styles and discursive frameworks. What I hope to establish by recollecting these processes is the contextual contingency of environmentalism, and, in particular, its dependence on the broader society. For it is my contention that we must take these broader macro-level processes into more explicit consideration if we are to improve the prospects ofecological-change agents to effect social transformations. In the various struggles to resolve contradictions in both theory and practice, and to transcend the many barriers that have stood in its path, there has emerged an ecological culture that, in many respects, represents a continual synthesis, a bringing together, of its various component parts.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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