Conclusion Of Green Movement

The future of the green movement

In Chapter One of this book it was argued that it was possible to speak of a green movement as a transnational, though western, network of radical environmentalists linked by a collective identity. The green movement is a social movement within the more diffuse and broader environmental movement. The existence of this social movement can be discerned by the extent to which it meets four criteria of a collective identity, network ties between groups and individuals, participation in protest; and challenging existing forms of power, both cultural and structural. Green action is, like all social movement action, ideologically structured. The green ideology that was examined in Chapter Three was argued to be a broad framework based upon interdependent green commitments to ecological rationality, egalitarianism, and participatory and decentralised democracy. This ideology is indentifiable in its most elaborated form in the programmes and statements of green parties, but it can also be found in direct action networks and the more radical of the green environmental movement organisations. The sources of this ideology, as was argued in Chapter Two, seem best explained by the distinctive experiences shared by the social groups which make up the core of the activists in green movements. The importance of experience and its effect on the development of a diverse green movement, was defined through the idea of the collective learning of a political generation, embracing the new knowledge of the ecological crisis, the anti-authoritarian, global and radical democratic ideas of the New Left and the experience of greens in other social movements and in welfare-oriented professions.

Whereas the first three chapters concentrated on a model based on common ground between various types of greens, the four chapters that followed examined different types of green group. These chapters focused on the nature of green praxis and on the dilemmas specific to different types of green group. In the green parties there has been a shift towards accepting participation in government, but no resolution of the problem of how to achieve radical change from a minority position within the political system. There has been some deradicalisation in green parties but not such a major ideological change that they can be seen as having broken with green ideology. In other respects, such as ties with other parts of the movement, shared collective identity and participation in protest, most green parties remain part of the green movement, notwithstanding the specific constraints that they face as parties operating within the electoral sphere.

In the mass environmental movement organisations, institutionalisation has expanded resources but not always produced the expected deradicalisation of EMOs' values, or a decline in protest. On both these questions, however, the differences between countries were particularly marked. Some groups such as FOE in Australia clearly do fit the ideal type characteristics of the green movement, others such as FOE in Italy and Greenpeace are further from the model. Nevertheless, there remain important differences between groups such as FOE and Greenpeace and non-radical conservation groups such as WWF, which clearly lie outside the green movement.

The direct action networks in Britain, the USA and Australia examined in Chapter Six best approximate the ideal type definition of the green movement outlined earlier. Yet, even in such groups there have been conflicts over the status of social justice versus wilderness as in the USA in the 1980s and over violence, which reflect the need to negotiate a collective identity.

Local environmental groups generally do not fit within the ideal type definition of the green movement: they often do not see themselves as part of the green movement they do not usually have ties to other parts of the movement, (although greens do sometimes participate within these groups), and they do not usually share a green ideology or the culture that is part of the green identity But, it was argued that it is still useful to analyse them using social movement concepts because this reveals features of their praxis that interest group analysis tends to miss or at least downplay. Examples of this include the effects of distrust and disaffection from decision-makers in encouraging opposition; the common patterns of radicalisation experienced by activists and the cultural questions raised by the need to engage with science and to speak for the interests of their community.

Table 8. 1 below captures two dimensions of the differences between these four types of group. Direct action groups and green parties are distinct from EMOs and most grassroots environmental groups in the breadth of their campaigning agendas. Although we saw that there are processes of radicalisa-tion that affect many local environmental campaigns and that EMOs also retain a commitment to green ideological goals, the public campaigning of these two types of group tends to focus on specific issues. Direct action groups and grassroots local environmental groups are distinct from most green parties and most EMOs in retaining autonomy from the state. The institutionalisation of the latter has meant more participation in state institutions. For direct action groups retaining autonomy from the state is an ideological position, for local environmental groups the position varies. While most are involved in consultations with local officials, few are sufficiently long-lasting to be offered any formal status in local authorities, and as we saw of the anti-toxics and environmental justice movements, many retain their autonomy for strategic reasons.

Table 8.1 Ideology and the state in the four types of green movement

Work partly within state Autonomy from state

Ideological breadth Green Parties

Focus on specific (most) EMOs issues

Direct Action Groups

Local environmental groups Greenpeace and some other EMOs.

There are major differences between different types of groups defined here as green. They differ also in forms of organisation, in types of protest action undertaken, and particularly in strategy. No one can claim therefore to speak for the movement, and no particular group or organisation 'owns' or leads the movement. Yet, there are also commonalities of ideas, practices, network ties and experiences that mean that it is still possible to speak of a green movement. Others, viewing the evidence of what these movements are like, may prefer to still speak of green movements in the plural. Activists are likely to identify more with their specific type of green movement than with the green movement as defined here. Yet, these two identities are not incompatible and the use of green when articulated by activists as 'what we believe' refers to something more specific than the environment or the environmental movement.

A recurring argument in this book has been that the institutionalisation of part of the green movement, particularly the EMOs and green parties, does not disqualify them from being part of the green movement as a social movement, nor does it lead to wholesale de-radicalisation. While it could be argued that the EMOs and green parties have been replaced by the direct action groups as the social movement part of the environmental movement, this would mean underplaying the network ties, joint protests and common identity, and ideological framework that cut across all three types of group and which mark them as collectively distinct from the non-radical parts of the environmental movement. These boundaries are admittedly difficult to draw, however, and they vary cross-nationally and over time. Moreover, it is possible that the differentiation of the green movement will increase divisions between these groups to the extent that they no longer share common features. Thus, this movement is not predestined to remain a social movement.

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