Movement legacies

A third set of conditioning factors to consider are the more recent experiences in relation to how environmental movements have developed. Again, let me illustrate what I have in mind by referring to Sweden, Denmark, and the United States, since they provide a useful and varied range of experiences - and, for personal reasons, I have some first-hand knowledge. In Sweden, the environmental movement has primarily been a reactive force. Swedish political culture, with its strong state and bureaucratic institutions, has left a strong imprint on the way in which envi-ronmentalism has developed. In particular, the hegemony of the Swedish Social Democratic party has been decisive. Although environmentalism has been a very important political force in Sweden, the comparatively early incorporation of an environmental consciousness into the established political culture has made it difficult for an autonomous environmental movement to develop (Jamison et al. 1990: 13ff).

During the 1970s the environmental debate in Sweden was dominated by the issue of nuclear energy, and the transformation of the environmental movement into an anti-nuclear opposition was, in what might be termed typical Swedish fashion, largely taken over by established political actors. Nowhere else in Europe was anti-nuclear sentiment so deeply "parliamentarized" as it was in Sweden. In particular, the Centre Party's identification with an environmental and anti-nuclear position meant that anti-nuclear protest in Sweden, almost from its beginning, was a parliamentary affair. The environmental movement, as a result of internal splits and external pressures, fragmented during this period of anti-nuclear opposition. In the 1980s, as in other countries, a new cluster of transnational non-governmental organizations - from Greenpeace to the World Wildlife Fund - came on the scene, and there emerged a parliamentary Green Party that now provides crucial support for the ruling minority Social-Democratic government. Most significant, however, was the renovation of the older conservation society, the Swedish Society for Nature Protection, which has become a key actor in many of the programs of sustainable development and ecological modernization. In recent years, the society's expert staff has played a central role in a number of new activities, from eco-labeling to sustainable transport policy-making. In relation to local Agenda 21 activities, the society has served as a national coordinating body, filling in when decreased funding has kept the state Environmental Protection Agency from playing an active role (Andringa et al. 1998).

In Denmark the environmental movement has been much more characterized by local experiments, and a booming wind-energy industry is one of the most visible results (Jamison et al. 1990: 66ff). Environmental issues lay dormant in Denmark for much longer than in Sweden, and became more directly associated with the alternative political ideologies that grew out of the youth rebellion and the student movement of the late 1960s. The most important organization in this connection was NOAH, started in 1969 by biology and architecture students in Copenhagen, which soon developed into a national organization of environmental activism. NOAH utilized scientific information and cooperated with scientists who served as "counter-experts," particularly in relation to the media. In this way, the first efforts at creating public awareness of environmental problems in Denmark were carried out by an alliance between students and the media that was highly critical of the "establishment."

The activist approach of NOAH drew on the Danish tradition of participatory democracy associated with the cooperative movement and the People's High Schools and, more generally, on the populist political tradition of the nineteenth century. The social movements like NOAH that emerged in the 1960s contributed to a new civic policy culture for environmental science and technology that was to grow stronger over the following decades. In Denmark the public debate on environmental issues was not so easy to incorporate as in Sweden. And, in contrast to other countries, the "grass roots" dimension became more important as environmentalists took part in the struggle against nuclear energy and the search for alternative means of energy supply. The opposition to nuclear energy was coordinated by an independent Organization for Information about Nuclear Power (OOA), which so effectively mobilized public resistance and pressure that the Danish government abandoned its nuclear plans in the late 1970s. In addition, the popular debate on alternative energy sources and various public awareness and information campaigns encouraged movement organizations to foster local practical initiatives that gradually became incorporated into Denmark's environmental policy.

In the United States the environmental movement of the 1970s rather quickly divided into what have come to be called the "mainstream" organizations that have become highly professionalized, and various voluntary local groups and networks that have tended to develop around particular issues, from nuclear energy to toxic waste, from climate change and biodiversity to animal rights (Dowie 1996). Where the romantic, or arcadian, tradition received a new lease on life with the counter-culture of the 1960s and then with the emergence of "new age" politics and the widespread movement "back to the country," the managerial, or imperialist, tradition has come to play a significant role in public policy-making and, perhaps especially, in the making of green business.

The mainstream organizations have become active both in programs of sustainable development and in new-issue areas like biotechnology and climate change. Also influential in the United States has been the role of "movement intellectuals," or experts, like Barry Commoner, Amory Lovins, and John and Nancy Jack Todd, who have established alternative research centers and contributed to the innovation of many environmentally friendly techniques and scientific-technical concepts (e.g. Commoner 1971; Todd 1977; Lovins 1977). Thus the environmental movement in the United States has been highly diverse, with much less common ground among local protesters, professional experts, and mainstream organizations than in many European countries. Also in the United States the commercialization of environmental politics has been particularly intense, with the Reagan administration representing a veritable "counter-revolution" in relation to a great many of the achievements of the 1970s. The need for an active private-sector involvement thus became particularly crucial for the environmental movement of the 1980s, as government support to local initiatives turned into a highly visible "backlash" (Rowell 1996).

In the United States of recent years the emergence of a vocal anti-environmental movement is very noticeable (see Luke 2000). For many right-wing populists environmentalism has come to be a part of a global conspiracy of free-traders and internationalists, and the defense of the exploitation of nature has been coupled to the defense of personal freedom. And there has been a pronounced influence of such viewpoints on the role that Americans have played in the new kinds of transnational envi-ronmentalism. Local communities in the United States have done much less than many of their European counterparts to implement Agenda 21, for example (Lake 2000). American officials have been unwilling to enter into international agreements that would affect the possibilities for American business firms to operate in the global marketplace (see French 2000).

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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