Some EMOs were never radical in ideology and were therefore not properly part of the green movement as a social movement. This applies particularly to conservation groups such as the WWF and the National Trust.30 However, it is primarily the national affiliates of FOE International and Greenpeace as well as smaller national environmental groups that are seen as having become less radical.
While some groups such as NOAH in Denmark and FOE in Australia are still unquestionably green in their combination of commitments to social justice, ecology and democracy, others are more difficult to judge. In the Netherlands for instance, Milieudefensie has shifted from being a participatory protest organisation to a public interest-type lobby and van der Heijden remarks that most discussion of environmental issues in the Netherlands is now based on practical ameliorative schemes, such as energy saving and recycling. 'On practical solutions ... a high level of sophistication has been reached, but most environmental groups have stopped talking about topics that lie outside this "discursive space": reduction in meat consumption, car driving and air traffic; living in smaller houses, etc.' (2000: 22). In Italy Amici della Terra and Legamabiente are also now much more pragmatic in their campaigns than in the 1980s (della Porta and Andretta 2000). Other groups, however, retain a broader radical discourse, as we will see below.
Greenpeace represents a special case. From the outset, Greenpeace deliberately avoided ideological statements that would place it on the left or the right. It concentrated on single issues that could be framed as moral causes in their own right. Nevertheless, part of its self-cultivated image was as a critic of big power, whether in the form of government or big business, and in that sense it had a radical image. Its criticism of the nuclear industry and nuclear weapons as well as of business meant that despite its moral rather than ideological framing of issues, it was widely associated with the anti-authoritarian position and its support for issues of social justice places it implicitly on the left. But, this consistency with green ideology is so sotto voce that if the green movement had to rely on Greenpeace its ideological arguments would be largely invisible.
EMOs are also charged with failing to mobilise their supporters to take action. The action repertoires of EMOs are less radical in many cases than previously. In Italy, while EMOs still take part in protest, in contrast to the 1980s these protests are rarely disruptive. Yet, as Carmin (1999) shows for the USA, and as was discussed above, it was probably rarely the case that national groups initiated mass environmental protests. Some groups such as FOE (UK) did not pursue disruptive protests. Leafletting, public information stalls, press releases, petitions and non-confrontational demonstrations were and remain the predominant repertoire of many EMOs. When Dalton surveyed EMOs in the mid-1980s the frequency of protest was relatively low and they viewed their protest activities primarily as a means to mobilise public opinion through symbolic action and not as a challenge to power (1994: 196-7). The advertising of Greenpeace can be seen as encouraging a kind of passivity, suggesting that environmental problems can be solved by its committed professionals. And many members of EMOs are willing to allow the organisation to act on their behalf: for 70% of members of FOE UK 'playing a part in politics' as individuals was not important (Jordan and Maloney 1997: 192), so there is little basis for thinking that the mass membership of EMOs is being thwarted from taking more radical action by an oligarchic elite in the EMOs. Email has provided a new low-cost form of protest activity for groups that seek to expand participation by their members without demanding too much of them. The websites of most EMOs now include email protest letters, and both Friends of the Earth International and Greenpeace have recently supported disruptive forms of cyberprotest. Friends of the Earth closed down the White House website several times early in 2001 as over 100,000 people protested against President Bush's stance on climate change.31
Yet, the lack of radical action by EMOs does not entail the absence of protest. In fact, there is no relationship between the institutionalisation of EMOs and the levels of environmental protest. The Transformation of Environmental Activism (TEA) project surveyed levels of environmental protest in ten European Union countries and found no consistent cross-national pattern between 1988 and 1997. The most remarkable rise in confrontational and disruptive protest was in Britain, (Rootes 2000) and this was despite the fact that this was a period when EMOs had unprecedented access to policy-makers. In Germany, contrary to general impressions that the movement had become de-radicalised, the research showed that there had been no decline in protest. Although the largest mass membership national groups carried out mainly 'conventional' protest action such as petitions, referenda, leafleting, lobbying and legal actions, there was no decline in more confrontational actions such as vigils, boycotts, demonstrations blockades and occupations, which were carried out mainly by the medium sized and smaller EMOs (Rucht and Roose 2000: 17-19). Germany was also notable for the continued vitality of protests against nuclear energy, which elsewhere had declined (Rucht and Roose 1999). In Spain there was also no clear decline in protest during the 1990s, but the main characteristic was the predominance of local protest and the diversity of issues motivating protest (Jimenez 1999b). In contrast in France, Italy and Sweden32 the level of protest appeared to have declined substantially since the late 1980s. And, as Fillieule and Ferrier (1999) note, the form of environmental protest contradicts the more general pattern of high levels of confrontational protest in France. Actions taken by the environmental movement are overwhelmingly non-violent and less confrontational than is the norm for protest in France. Thus the confrontational pattern of action by the French environmental movement noted by van der Heijden (1997) for 1975-89 no longer holds and appears to have applied largely to the period of anti-nuclear protest in the late 1970s.33
The TEA surveys and evidence from the USA (Carmin 1999) and Australia (Doyle 2000: ch.12) show a general pattern in which the institutionalisation of EMOs was paralleled by a growth (though variable and more difficult to measure) in grassroots protests outside the formal EMOs. This suggests that even if part of the green movement becomes institutionalised, in some countries new grassroots groups have reacted reflexively, taking more radical action. This is particularly notable in the rise of Earth First! in Britain, whose activists were well aware of the limits of existing EMOs (Wall 1999; Doherty 1999). At local level new grassroots protests often include members of local groups of the national EMOs, as was the case in the anti-roads protests in Britain (McNeish 2000; Cathles 2000), qualifying the picture of institutionalisation further. Moreover, the rise of more confrontational protest and the evidence that it is accepted and tolerated, (on which see Chapter Six) increases the space for EMOs to combine protest with other institutional activity. In Britain FOE, having initially avoided involvement in direct action, came to support the new direct action networks, as long as they remained non-violent. In those countries where grassroots protests have not emerged so strongly, the explanation is more likely to lie with other political factors such as the weakness of the alternative milieu, or its engagement with other issues, than with the institutionalisation of the EMOs.
A major change for environmental groups was the dramatic increase in the salience of environmental issues as a focus for public concern in the late 1980s. When, in response, government, political parties and business began to argue that they too recognised the seriousness of environmental problems EMOs had to adapt and respond. For van der Heijden the turning point came with the acceptance by EMOs of the discourses of ecological modernisation. This 'massive surrender' (1999: 203-4) meant replacing the changing of capitalist industrial structures with an agreement that change could occur within capitalism. However, as noted in Chapter Three, ecological modernisation is not an uncontested concept. Moreover, some EMOs have either refrained from endorsing it, or stepped back from it. In Germany, after a period when EMOs were increasingly consulted and praised by government and business, there was a return to a more critical stance towards government from the early 1990s. Economic recession brought a return to a pro-economic growth discourse from political elites and reinforced a growing scepticism within EMOs about the discourse of ecological modernisation (Brand 1999: 52). Environmental groups complained that despite increased access to government, particularly following the accession of the Greens to government, they still had much less influence than industry. Moreover, this scepticism has produced a return to a stronger critique of business and the unsustainable nature of western affluence. Brand also argues that as environmental problematic has become more obviously global, it has provided the movement with the opportunity to develop sustainable development34 as an alternative to the hegemony of neo-liberal discourse. A
return to the more confrontational positions of the 1970s is not feasible, but EMOs have returned to a more critical position regarding government and business.
A similar more critical shift can be identified in some British EMOs. Under Charles Secrett FOE has been more explicit in its focus on the structural causes of environmental degradation and its link with western affluence. FOE and other EMOs such as Wildlife Trusts, WWF, Transport 2000 and Pesticide Action Network have participated in a coalition with church, development and peace groups called The Real World Coalition. In two reports (Jacobs 1996; Christie and Warburton 2001) this coalition has argued that the central political issues are 'pushed to the margins of public debate and political manifestos'. These include 'environmental degradation; gross inequalities between the developing and the developed countries; endemic poverty and conflicts in the developing world; growing inequality in the UK, and the persistence of major gaps in social and economic opportunity between different groups according to race, gender, age and disability; widespread disaffection towards the political system; towards political parties and for many, towards society as a whole; a pervasive sense that community life and families are being damaged by changes in the economy and the operation of organisation; the gap between standard measures of economic success and the realities of quality of life' (Christie and Warburton 2001: ix). While the agenda is one of 'radical reform' rather than system transformation, it is most notable that it reads sustainability as requiring a considerable expansion of democracy in a more participatory form, action against a broad range of social inequalities, and the rejection of neo-liberal economic policies. In its critique of car use, of quantitative forms of economic growth and emphasis on redistribution it gives priority to the kinds of questions absent from debates in the Netherlands.
While sustainable development has many critics and is by no means an unproblematic concept, the most important conclusion that can be drawn from the return to a more radical interpretation of it by EMOs in Britain and Germany is that internal institutionalisation does not entail permanent de-radicalisation. On the other hand, it is not possible for EMOs to return to the same discourse as before. The attitudes of the public, business and government are different from the 1970s and EMOs have adapted in response. It is no longer enough to provide information about environmental problems. There is sufficient awareness of these that the principal role of the green EMOs has become more policy-focused, and based upon detailed research, combined with the legitimacy provided by their mass membership. So, although the values of many EMOs remain radical, EMOs may no longer be in a position to initiate or coordinate contentious opposition. By investing so much in professionalisation and by concentrating on the mobilisation of material rather than human resources they have developed a position as authoritative actors within the political system. Organisationally, as we have seen, it is difficult to take a more oppositional stance, because campaigns based on professional expertise have to be planned so long in advance. Discursively, the EMOs are constrained by their shift to constructive maturity. In these respects, the development of organisation has shaped the strategy of EMOs.
Yet, although protests may have become routinised, and there has been a partial inclusion of EMOs, it is less clear that co-option has occurred. The willingness of groups to co-operate with elites is still very much shaped by ideology. And even groups that have moved to a less radical position have sometimes moved back again to a more radical critique. Moreover, SMOs cannot be analysed in isolation from the rest of the green movement. In some countries institutionalisation of EMOs, has not prevented a rise in grassroots protests, and this shows that institutionalisation does not determine the actions of the whole movement. Moreover, since the more radical EMOs remain well networked with other parts of the movement, and, at local levels often overlap in social networks and mutual membership (Doherty, Plows and Wall 2001), it is plausible to view this as a mutual division of labour.
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