The mobilization of traditions

It would be these three traditions and the various sub-sets thereof that came to be mobilized in the 1960s in the making of a new social movement. On the one hand, the imperialist tradition was reinvented, among other places, in the cybernetic language of ecosystems ecology and energy-systems analysis and in the transnational networking of the World

Wildlife Fund. Systems ecology, as developed by Howard Odum's sons, Eugene and Howard, became extremely influential among natural scientists, particularly during the International Biological Program, and, as a new approach to ecology, it would play a major role in the emergence of an environmental consciousness in the 1960s (Worster 1977: 291ff).

The Odums also illustrate the importance of established scientists in the articulation of the new environmentalism's cognitive praxis (Cramer et al. 1987). The environmental movement involved, at the outset, a kind of popularization of science, as well as a translation of concepts and terminology that had been developed in relating non-human nature to society and politics. Eugene and Howard Odum's popular writings provided a scientific legitimacy and authority to the new movement, as well as a powerful terminology and conceptual framework, while the movement helped provide ecological scientists with new opportunities for research, and eventually with a new political mission: ecologizing society (Soderqvist 1986).

In 1962 the arcadian tradition found a contemporary voice in the biologist-turned-science-writer Rachel Carson. After writing two best-selling nature books in the 1950s, Carson had grown extremely concerned about the impact that the new chemical insecticides were having on the forests and on the animals that she loved so much. Her four-year investigation of the environmental consequences of one of those pestkillers resulted in a new form of political broadside, a book of scientific poetry. Silent Spring announced a new kind of arcadian ecology that was to have a major influence on the cognitive praxis of the emerging environmental movement (Jamison and Eyerman 1994: 92ff). But it would also inspire a new generation of arcadian ecologists to reframe their message and challenge the routinized, established approaches of the older conservation movement. To a large extent, the historical dichotomy between the imperialists and the arcadians would be replayed in the conflicts over direction and orientation in the fledgling movement organizations that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The new human ecologists came from many different directions. Some, like Murray Bookchin, who had been a labor activist in the 1930s, brought a socialist sensibility into the new movement. His book from 1963, Our Synthetic Environment, was one of the first to present the wide range of new environmental problems - occupational health, chemical pollution, household risks, waste disposal - that were to gain increasing public attention in the years to come. Others, like the biochemist Barry Commoner, gave the environmental movement a more technical emphasis; Commoner depicted, in his first book, Science and Survival (1966), the new, subservient role that science was playing in society and production,

82 The Making of Green Knowledge

Table 2. Phases of environmentalism




(1) awakening

public debate

World Wildlife Fund


issue identification

Silent Spring, 1962

(2) "age of ecology"


Friends of the Earth

(ca. 1969-74)

program articulation

Only One Earth, 1972

(3) politicization

social movement

"No Nukes"

(ca. 1975-79)

energy policy

Soft Energy Paths, 1977

(4) differentiation

think tanks

WRI, CSE, Earth First!

(ca. 1980-86)

"deep ecology"

State of the World, 1984

(5) internationalization

sustainable development


(ca. 1987-93)

global issues

Our Common Future, 1987

(6) integration


Agenda 21

(ca. 1994-)


Natural Capitalism, 1999

and suggested new public-service, or critical, activities for scientists to pursue in the emerging movement. The biologist Paul Ehrlich resurrected the Malthusian message of population pressures and resource limitations in his book The Population Bomb (1968), and the different perspectives of Commoner and Ehrlich would subsequently combine in new activist organizations and environmental studies departments. Still others, like Lewis Mumford, would provide historical and philosophical perspectives to help understand the new environmental problems. As such, the human ecology tradition was also reinvented, or mobilized, in the 1960s.

Although the actual time-periods in which the different phases took place have varied from country to country, the making of an environmental consciousness can be seen to have gone through six main phases since the 1960s, and it is those phases that will provide the structure for the rest of this chapter (see Table 2).

In the 1950s and 1960s there was an initial period of awakening when the traditions of ecology were given new life. Then came a short-lived "age of ecology," when environmentalism was transformed into a more explicit, programmatic, identity, usually in new organizational settings and with new kinds of institutional frameworks. The third phase was more political, as the struggle against nuclear energy transformed the environmental consciousness in many countries into major political campaigns, which, when resolved, reinforced the processes of differentiation and fragmentation that were there from the beginning, as well as giving rise to new kinds of incorporation pressures. These pressures have had to do with the range of professional opportunities that opened up in the 1980s, with the identification of new kinds of international, or global, environmental issues, and eventually, in the 1990s, with the calls for integrating environ-mentalism into sustainable paths of socio-economic development. As a result, the emerging culture was subdivided into a range of branches, all drawing on the integrative cognitive praxis that was formed in the 1970s, but increasingly fragmented or differentiated from one another.

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