The 1980s were not kind to environmentalism. Rather than moving forward and gaining new members and enthusiasts, the environmental movement tended to decompose and split apart, for reasons that were not so much internal as external. There were, to be sure, plenty of disputes and debates over how to proceed most effectively. How should the opportunities that had emerged in the anti-nuclear movement - to influence policy-making, to affect industrial development, to empower local communities - best be utilized? Should environmentalists in other countries follow the example of the Germans and build a political party? Did the movement need to become more professional and hard-nosed in its modes of operation, that is, was Greenpeace the model of the future?
Lurking behind all the internal debates, however, was the recognition that a counter-revolution was under way. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher had come to power, and in the United States Ronald Reagan was elected president. Both were not merely anti-environmental but vehemently, aggressively, so. The ministers they appointed defended the rights of the exploiters, and their policies favored de-regulation, privatization, commercialization. The ideology of neo-liberalism, as it has come to be called, subsequently took on many manifestations as it spread around the world. There were both "greener" versions and "browner" versions, as corporate leaders and the public servants they supported developed their responses to the environmental challenge. The strategies that emerged to combine environmentalism and economics have grown into one of the influential "discourses" of our time - sustainable development or ecological modernization: what I will be calling here, green business; while the browner versions have supported many a "backlash," from scientists denying the existence of climate change and global warming, to consumers of ever bigger and ever more unnecessary automobiles, to companies moving their operations in the name of globalization to places where environmental controls are less stringent.
Even more insidiously, however, neo-liberalism helped to mobilize what was already afoot in some parts of Europe, and in some parts of the environmental movement: a populist reaction. By now, populist parties of the far right have taken power in many municipalities in France, Austria, and Norway, and they have become significant parliamentary actors in most European countries, as well as in many other parts of the world. Mixing patriotism with racism, and defending national sovereignty against the European Union and other transnational bodies, the populist reaction has become a force to be reckoned with - both in Europe and the United States. Populism has served to infect many environmentalists with what might be called a traditionalist, or neo-nationalist, bias, and as its political influence has increased, the public concern with the environment has tended to decline. Indeed, populism has helped to inspire in Europe an anti-ecological mobilization against "green" taxes on energy use and motor fuel, for example, among those who feel that their livelihoods are threatened by certain kinds of environmental policies emanating from the European Union bureaucrats in Brussels. In the United States, populism has fed into the revival of evangelical religion that has been extremely important politically for the past twenty years.
It has not been easy for environmentalists to navigate among globalists and populists, innovators and traditionalists, but somehow we and they have managed to keep going. Most of the people I met in the early days, for instance, are still active. Bjorn Gillberg has developed a form of counter-expertise through the years, by which he has contributed his particular skills and talents to the resolution of many environmental controversies in Sweden. He has helped to bring polluting companies to court, and he has advised citizens' groups about their rights. Most recently, he has become a discussion partner with corporations, encouraging them to clean their production processes and develop "environmentally-friendly" products (Gillberg 1999).
Across the water, Peder Agger and Oluf Danielsen are still at Roskilde. They have been active in a range of rather unique public arenas in which environmental issues have been discussed in Danish society: the Technology Board, now Technology Council, where citizen involvement in technology assessment, especially through the so-called consensus conferences, has attracted international attention; the Ecological Council, which provides policy pronouncements and advice to government as well as publishing the journal Global 0kologi (Global Ecology); and the Green Fund, which gives support to a wide array of grassroots projects. All three institutions are conspicuous for their absence in Sweden (and, for that matter, in the United States and Britain, as well as most other countries).
Anil Agarwal has long been one of the most respected voices of Southern environmentalism, with his active involvement in international networks and organizations, while the Centre for Science and Environment serves as a model of critical environmental knowledge production and dissemination. David Dickson produced another influential book -on the politics of American science - and served a spell as editor of New Scientist, and is now back writing for Nature. Ziauddin Sardar, who has done so much over the past twenty years to teach us about the relations between science and Islam, is editor of Futures. Vandana Shiva, who spent a semester with us in Lund in the early 1980s, has been at the forefront of a Third World environmental activism that has intensified over the past decade, while Amory Lovins, from his Rocky Mountain Institute, now professes a belief in "natural capitalism," a form of green business that has become an ever more significant part of the ecological culture.
This book is, in many ways, their story, or, to be a bit presumptuous, our story. For I, too, have tried to keep the banner flying through the years, primarily by writing about the environmental movement, and what I have come to call its cognitive praxis (Jamison et al. 1990; Eyerman and Jamison 1991). In the 1980s, I wrote about the "knowledge interests" that had developed within environmental movements, and in the 1990s I have tried to follow those interests as they have increasingly left the movement space behind (Jamison 1996; 1998). Most recently, I have explored the politics of participation in relation to sustainable development, as well as the transformation of environmental activism, in a number of different European countries, which has given me the immediate incentive to write this book and try to work out what it all means. I have also had occasion to see what happened to the visions of those "steam people" I wrote about in the late 1960s (Hard and Jamison 1997).
For while a great deal has been written about environmental problems and environmental politics, the actual historical trajectory of environ-mentalism, the dynamics of what I have come to think of as an emerging ecological culture, has tended to be neglected. Different authors have focused on different aspects of the social and cultural transformations that have been taking place over the past thirty years in the name of ecology and, as a result, all too often the forest has tended to be reduced to the trees. Instead of thinking like a mountain, and recognizing that "land is community" as Aldo Leopold put it so many years ago, all too many tend to defend their own private pieces of land (Leopold 1949). Among those who have analyzed the situation, too many authors have all too often tried to fit their stories into their own professional "discourse" or personal life-world.
There is also, as in so many other topic areas, a huge difference between American writings, with their patriotic enthusiasms and their sticking to the "facts," and European writings, with their cosmopolitan sophistication and speculative theories. Americans tend to see the rest of the world as peripheral, while many Europeans, as a kind of reaction to the American media barrage, retreat into a rather ineffectual provincialism. As an American who has lived in Europe for thirty years, I have continually been struck by the discursive dissonances, the interpretative imbalances, between the hemispheres. While Americans, for example, tend to neglect the importance of history, the past weighs heavily on many a European. All that seems to be new comes from North America, while Europeans take on the task of defending all that is old. What makes it across from both sides is thus often neither the best nor the brightest but more like the loudest and the most extreme. So while there is by now a voluminous literature on environmental politics, there still is room, even a need perhaps, for a book that explicitly tries to make connections: across disciplines and social roles, across countries and continents, across the generations, and, perhaps most importantly, across the divisions that have continued to grow between activists and academics, practitioners and theorists, the doers and the thinkers of the emerging ecological culture. There is a need, in short, for a collective memory, a usable past, an attempt to fashion a narrative of our own that might just bring us a bit closer together.
Among other things, this book tries to put into a broader historical and comparative perspective the making of what I call green knowledge in Sweden, Denmark, and the United States. In all three countries, as well as in all the other places that I will, on occasion, try to bring into the narrative, there has been an ongoing political battle for many years now, a battle for recognition, for acceptance, for influence. But there has also been a battle at the level of ideas - a cognitive battle - and, at both levels, it is not so clear who or what has won. Have the Bjorn Gillbergs, Amory Lovinses, and Peder Aggers of the world been forced to change their message and their mission so that they could be taken seriously in high places? Or have their activities helped to change our contemporary political cultures, making them "greener," more aware and conscious of environmental problems?
Put in this way, the answer must be a firm yes - to both questions. Yes, the activism has changed; many of those who were involved in the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s have become less radical (but also perhaps more realistic) in the things they say and the things they do. But yes, environmental activism has also helped to change fundamentally the ambience of our late modern, or postmodern, or not-yet-modern, industrial societies. In bringing environmentalism out of the cold and into the establishment, activists and former activists have played important roles in processes of institutional and policy reform, scientific and technological innovation and, on a more personal level, in changing values, beliefs, feelings, and behavior.
It is this circuitous process of social change, this long march through the institutions, this dialectical tension between incorporation and resistance, that forms the subject-matter of this book. I want to emphasize the diversity of processes involved, the contradictions and ambiguities, the differences among the participants that are all too often neglected, and which need to be explicitly recognized and discussed if they are ever to be overcome. There are strong forces of fragmentation and separation at work, and the greater the differentiation the more difficult it seems to retain a sense of unified purpose or to articulate an underlying meaning or coherence in environmental politics. If diversity makes some of us strong, it also seems to make many of us confused and disillusioned.
Was this article helpful?