Imagining Other


Weeks 9 & 10 : The Green Movement and environmental problems.

Summary handout.



Imagining Other Index Page

The Environment Movement


1. How concerns (and key concepts) have developed:

1.1 Humans and nature (agriculture).

1.2 Industrialisation to the 20th century: dark satanic mills; sewage and health; air pollution, smog (interactions). Clean Air Acts.

1.3 Growing awareness: “Silent Spring” (Rachel Carson 1962): chemical residues, the food chain; “Limits to Growth” (Club of Rome 1972): large-scale interconnections [population, resource depletion, production of food and goods, land, pollution], feedback loops, exponential growth, zero-growth economy, sustainability.

1.4 The ozone layer. CFCs banned.

1.5 Recent concerns: nuclear power, genetic modification, global warming, sixth extinction.


2.  More key concepts:

2.1 ecology - living things interacting with each other and with their environment - food chains - biodiversity and redundancy, and lack of hierarchy make for stability

2.2 earth as ecosystem - spaceship earth

2.3 Gaia hypothesis (James Lovelock 1995) – nature of life, the planet as self-regulating

2.4 the problem with economics - monetary values: how to put a price on quality of life? air, sea, rivers: free? externalities/residuals - the market's limitations


3. Illustrative problem:

The greenhouse effect - carbon dioxide and global warming.


4. History of the evolution of the movement;

4.1 from local to global,

4.2 from ‘stewardship’ to a utilitarian to an ecological view,

4.3 the international/global dimension


5. The composition of the environment movement and controversies concerning its strategy and goals.

5.1 pressure groups e.g. Friends of the Earth, WWF, Wildlife Trusts,

5.2 political parties, Green Parties: The ‘four pillars’ of Green politics: (a) ecological wisdom, (b) social justice, (c) participatory grassroots democracy, (d) non-violence.

5.3 is the green movement a ‘social movement’?

5.4 how significant is the movement – the problem of ‘sceptics’ and opponents (industry)


6. Alternative strategies:

A:  within the existing system:

6.1 the market, new technology – but: growth, inequalities, only immediate, safe, problems dealt with, and can ànew problems

6.2 new technology but: new dangers (especially if in market economy?)

6.3 self-regulation of business and industry – Corporate Social responsibility (‘good business is good for business’) – but: danger of ‘green-wash’ (PR) – ‘sustainability’

6.4 the individual - "reduce, recycle, re-use" – but: vs. consumerism, mass production



B: putting pressure through the green movement and pressure groups:

6.5 policing the market - pressure groups etc ("light green" approach) – but: problems from A are still there, structures and attitudes not changed

6.6 regulating the market - planning the economy (government) – but: unaccountable bureaucracy, public not involved

6.7 international bodies: UN, WHO, IPCC etc - sustainable development – but: current inequalities and power structures maintained


C: ‘radical’ alternatives:

6.8 new economic structures e.g. Green New Deal – but: ‘socialism’!

6.9 alternative technology, new social structures ("dark/deep green" approach), social ecology, eco-socialism, eco-feminism etc – but: how to implement? - utopian?

6.10 learning from ‘first peoples’


7. Concluding questions:

Can we ‘learn from nature’ or is this just a romantic view?


- diversity of nature à tolerance

- interdependence à equality

- longevity à respect for tradition

- nature as female à feminist… (from Dobson Green Politics).


Greens need to be able to say why we should not damage the environment… do we use rational, or intuitive/emotional arguments e.g. should we cut down the last tree…?


Can there be a ‘green ethics’ or an environmental philosophy? Should it be based on the intrinsic value of nature, or utilitarian (i.e. nature has extrinsic value)?




Conclusion of the course: discussion of learning outcomes concerning social movements:


Relevant historical background

Social and political context

Constituent parts

Philosophy or set of values

Strategy and tactics

Assessment of the movement.



Further reading?