Movement organisations

This chapter will examine the almost universal trend towards institutionalisation of environmental movement organisations (EMOs) in western industrial countries by addressing the following questions:

• What form does institutionalisation take?

• To what extent is it inevitable and irreversible?

• What is the relationship between institutionalisation and the pattern of activity of the environmental movement as a whole? Is there a decline in protest? To what extent does the pattern vary across countries?

• Perhaps most crucial, to what extent does institutionalisation mean de-radicalisation? Some critics have argued that by compromising too much the environmental movement is no longer able to offer an ideological challenge to the dominant order.

The main focus will be on EMOs that are organised mainly at the national level, and have a formal bureaucratic structure, as distinct from the grassroots groups examined in Chapter Seven or the NVDA groups in Chapter Six. While the latter have 'organisations' they rarely have a bureaucracy, with paid staff and formal systems of accountability. The use of environment rather than green is intended to signal the concentration of groups dealt with in this chapter on issues of environmental policy. The EMOs are both the most specifically environmental of the groups dealt with in this book and arguably the least radical. Yet, due to their large memberships, many see EMOs as the environmental movement, and apart from the voters for green parties, they are its main claim to mass support. Whether the EMOs can be considered part of the green social movement as distinct from the more diffuse environmental movement will be discussed in the final section of this chapter.

The major western EMOs such as Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club have become important political actors. Often consulted by government, courted by business and seen as authoritative and trustworthy representatives of the environment by the media, the EMOs have achieved this status at an astonishing speed. Conservation groups such as the Sierra Club (USA, 1892), Natuurmonmenten (Netherlands 1905) and the Royal

Society for the Protection of Birds (UK, 1899) were part of the first wave of environmental groups in the late nineteenth century. Other groups emerged before the second wave of environmental activism in the late 1960s. WWF was formed in 1961 in order to support the work of the International Union for Nature Conservation, which itself had been formed in 1948 to assist UNESCO. These groups broadened their interests as new environmental issues emerged in the 1980s. Groups concerned with animal welfare found that the protection of animals depended on protecting their habitats and this required campaigning on a wide range of issues from pollution to human poverty.1 By the 1990s there was a greater convergence between the organisational styles, and agendas of conservation groups and those of the more recently established and more confrontational environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and the various national affiliates of Friends of the Earth2 (FOE) International. Membership in both old and new EMOs grew very fast in the early 1970s from a low base and again at the end of the1980s, providing them with new legitimacy and new resources (see Table 5.1). As public concern about the environment mounted in response to new evidence about global environmental problems, governments sought to assuage this concern by developing new environmental policies. One result of this was a greater effort by governments to include EMOs in consultation about policy and, in some countries, in its implementation (Hajer 1995: 29).

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