Environmentalism as a social movement
Environmentalism as a social movement
Environmentalism as a social movement
Environmentalism and environmental movement
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the state of the environment. Environmentalism and environmental concerns are often represented by the color green. 
A concern for environmental protection has recurred in diverse forms, in different parts of the world, throughout history. For example, in the Middle East, the earliest known writings concerned with environmental pollution were Arabic medical treatises written during the "Arab Agricultural Revolution", by writers such as Alkindus, Costa ben Luca, Rhazes, Ibn Al-Jazzar, al-Tamimi, al-Masihi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Ridwan, Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, Abd-el-latif, and Ibn al-Nafis. They were concerned with air contamination, water contamination, soil contamination, solid waste mishandling, and environmental assessments of certain localities. 
In Europe, King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea-coal by proclamation in London in 1272, after its smoke had become a problem. The fuel was so common in England that this earliest of names for it was acquired because it could be carted away from some shores by the wheelbarrow. Air pollution would continue to be a problem in England, especially later during the Industrial Revolution, and extending into the recent past with the Great Smog of 1952.
Environmentalism can also be seen as a social movement that seeks to influence the political process by lobbying, activism, and education in order to protect natural resources and ecosystems. The environmental movement includes the conservation and green politics, is a diverse scientific, social, and political movement for addressing environmental issues.
An environmentalist is a person who may speak out about our natural environment and the sustainable management of its resources through changes in public policy or individual behavior by supporting practices such as not being wasteful. In various ways (for example, grassroots activism and protests), environmentalists and environmental organizations seek to give the natural world a stronger voice in human affairs.
Environmentalists advocate the sustainable management of resources and stewardship of the environment through changes in public policy and individual behavior. In its recognition of humanity as a participant in (not enemy of) ecosystems, the movement is centered on ecology, health, and human rights.
The environmental movement is represented by a range of organizations, from the large to grassroots. Due to its large membership, varying and strong beliefs, and occasionally speculative nature, the environmental movement is not always united in its goals. At its broadest, the movement includes private citizens, professionals, religious devotees, politicians, and extremists.
The roots of the modern environmental movement can be traced to attempts in nineteenth-century Europe and North America to expose the costs of environmental negligence, notably disease, as well as widespread air and water pollution, but only after the Second World War did a wider awareness begin to emerge.
The US environmental movement emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with two key strands: protectionists such as John Muir wanted land and nature set aside for its own sake, while conservationists such as Gifford Pinchot wanted to manage natural resources for exploitation. Among the early protectionists that stood out as leaders in the movement were Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and George Perkins Marsh. Thoreau was concerned about the wildlife in Massachusetts; he wrote Walden; or, Life in the Woods as he studied the wildlife from a cabin. John Muir founded the Sierra Club, one of the largest conservation organizations in the United States. Marsh was influential with regards to the need for resource conservation. Muir was instrumental in the creation of the world's first national park at Yellowstone in 1872.
During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, several events illustrated the magnitude of environmental damage caused by humans. In 1954, the 23 man crew of the Japanese fishing vessel Lucky Dragon 5 was exposed to radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll. The publication of the book Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson drew attention to the impact of chemicals on the natural environment. In 1967, the oil tanker Torrey Canyon went aground off the southwest coast of England, and in 1969 oil spilled from an offshore well in California's Santa Barbara Channel. In 1971, the conclusion of a law suit in Japan drew international attention to the effects of decades of mercury poisoning on the people of Minamata.
At the same time, emerging scientific research drew new attention to existing and hypothetical threats to the environment and humanity. Among them was Paul R. Ehrlich, whose book The Population Bomb (1968) revived concerns about the impact of exponential population growth. Biologist Barry Commoner generated a debate about growth, affluence and "flawed technology." Additionally, an association of scientists and political leaders known as the Club of Rome published their report The Limits to Growth in 1972, and drew attention to the growing pressure on natural resources from human activities.
Meanwhile, technological accomplishments such as nuclear proliferation and photos of the Earth from outer space provided both new insights and new reasons for concern over Earth's seemingly small and unique place in the universe.
In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, and for the first time united the representatives of multiple governments in discussion relating to the state of the global environment. This conference led directly to the creation of government environmental agencies and the UN Environment Program. The United States also passed new legislation such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act- the foundations for current environmental standards.
By the mid-1970s anti-nuclear activism had moved beyond local protests and politics to gain a wider appeal and influence. Although it lacked a single coordinating organization the anti-nuclear movement's efforts gained a great deal of attention. In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, many mass demonstrations took place. The largest one was held in New York City in September 1979 and involved two hundred thousand people; speeches were given by Jane Fonda and Ralph Nader.
Since the 1970s, public awareness, environmental sciences, ecology, and technology have advanced to include modern focus points like ozone depletion, global climate change, acid rain, and the potentially harmful genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Free-market environmentalism is a position that argues that the free market, property rights, and tort law provide the best tools to preserve the health and sustainability of the environment. This is in contrast to the most common modern approach of legislation by which the state intervenes in the market to protect the environment. While environmental problems may be viewed as market failures, free market environmentalists argue that environmental problems arise because of:
Laws that override or obscure property rights and thus fail to adequately protect or define those rights; and
Laws governing class or individual tort claims that provide polluters with immunity from tort claims, or interfere with those claims in such a way as to make it difficult to legally sustain them.
As a rule, therefore, free-market environmentalists believe that the best way to protect the environment is to allow tort and contract laws governing and protecting property rights and tort claims to emerge naturally, so that the protection of property no longer suffers from the defects that give governments, individuals, and corporations perverse incentives to spoil the environment.
Some economists believe that the market is unable to correct the negative externalities of industrial production and excessive depletion of non-renewable resources. In this view, firms receive the full benefit of creating their products in a way that generates pollutants but do not bear the full social costs of the increased pollution. They have no economic incentive to create products in a way that minimizes pollution and absent targeted environmental regulations, will continue to do so. This activity would be rational, because it would be profitable for a firm to overpollute, while letting others absorb the costs of its effects and cleanup. Regarded this way, opponents of market solutions to the problem of pollution assert that market mechanisms left to their own devices contain built-in incentives for environmental degradation. The case for free market valuation is complicated by uneven regulation, e.g. the standards set for recycling (under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, of 1976) are more strict than the government regulation of mining (General Mining Act, 1872).
Ecological economist Robin Hahnel has enumerated what he terms the four basic defects of a market economy with respect to the environment as: 
overexploitation of common property resources;
too little pollution cleanup; and
In response to these concerns, economists who prefer the free-market environmentalist approach argue that:
Overexploitation occurs to the extent of the lack of ownership incentives to care for the property, and that this communalization effect occurs to the extent of multiplicity of ownership. Overexploitation reduces the intrinsic and retail value of the property, the effect of which is most clearly felt by individual owners or through limited co-ownership.
Pollution occurs where and to the extent that victims are prevented or hindered from seeking tort restitution for such aggression. Legislative and Judicial authorities have tended to favor heavy industries over individual or class action in favor of public property and the common good.
Pollution clean-up also occurs naturally in a free market, because reducing the negative value of a property is a net gain, again leading to a higher intrinsic or retail value, and thus marketability.
Overconsumption is a flawed concept, because it assumes that resources are non-renewable. The market, through supply and demand, regulates consumption by adjusting it according to supply. For example, if a resource becomes more scarce, its value increases and thus also its cost. This forces consumers to redirect their purchases to alternate resources which are in more plentiful supply. In addition, the higher market value of the resource creates an incentive to create more of the commodity, and allows for a greater expenditure in doing so.
The prevalence of externalities would have serious implications for market efficiency in its static and dynamic dimensions. If negative externalities are unnaccounted for, it would imply that market prices will not accurately reflect true social opportunity costs, leading to misallocations of goods. As the elementary economics text book by Baumol and Blinder observes When a firm pollutes a river, it uses some of society's resources just as surely as when it burns coal. However, if the firm pays for coal but not for the use of clean water, it is expected that management will be economical in its use of coal and wasteful in its use of water.
The standard approach to addressing negative externalities is governmental regulation proscribing polluting activities. This approach has been criticized by free-market economists and others as being inefficient and ineffective. Furthermore, the demands of regulation seldom appeal to the social conscience of industries or enterprise owners and violation is often seen as legitimate business practice.
Critics have noted that studies sponsored by firms assessing their own activities are invariably biased and typically exemplify an illegitimately narrow focus that ignores a competitive market context and the prevalence of external effects throughout the supply chain. Amoco's attempts at voluntary measures have met with resistance from the four or five oil refining corporations with greater market share, who expressed a preference to be forced by state regulations before lowering their sulphur content. Following Amoco's gestures, prominent environmental groups were unimpressed. For example, the Earth Day 2000 report, "Don't Be Fooled" named Amoco as one the top 10 "greenwashers" of the year. 
While some environmentalists advocate compromises such as carbon trading schemes, most free-market environmentalists would prefer full accountability as dictated by courts that respect the rights of property owners in absolute terms.
Some free-market proponents, particularly those influenced by the Austrian economic school, such as B.J. Lawson claim that sustainability is fundamentally impossible when the money supply exhibits secular inflation.
Some economists argue from the Coase Theorem that, if industries internalized the costs of negative externalities they would face an incentive to reduce them, perhaps even becoming enthusiastic about taking advantage of opportunities to improve profitability through lower costs. Moreover, economists claim this would lead to the optimal balance between the marginal benefits of pursuing an activity and the marginal cost of its environmental consequences. One well-known means of internalizing a negative consequence is to establish a property right over some phenomenon formerly in the public domain. This requires a little abstract thinking in the case of environmental problems as these Coasians are talking about a grant to pollute or to exploit some limited natural phenomenon. This is a sophisticated variant of the polluter pays principle. However, critics have charged that the "theorem" attributed to Coase is of extremely limited practicability because of assumptions, including that it was theorized to account for adjacent effects where transaction costs for bargaining agents are typically small, but is ill-suited to real world externalities which have high bargaining costs due to many factors.
A number of libertarians, such as Rothbardians, reject the proposed Coasian solution as making invalid assumptions about the purely subjective notion of costs being measurable in monetary terms, and also of making unexamined and invalid value judgments (i.e., ethical judgments). The Rothbardians' solution is to recognize individuals' Lockean property rights, of which the Rothbardians maintain that Wertfreiheit (i.e., value-free) economic analysis demonstrates that this arrangement necessarily maximizes social utility.
Proponents of free-market environmentalism use the example of the recent destruction of the once prosperous Grand Banks fishery off Newfoundland. Once one of the world's most abundant fisheries, it has been almost completely depleted of fish. Those primarily responsible were large "factory-fishing" enterprises driven by the imperative to realize profits in a competitive global market. It is contended that if the fishery had been owned by a single entity, the owner would have had an interest in keeping a renewable supply of fish to maintain profits over the long term. The owner would thus have charged high fees to fish in the area, sharply reducing how many fish were caught. The owner also would have closely enforced rules on not catching young fish. Instead commercial ships from around the world raced to get the fish out of the water before competitors could, including catching fish that had not yet reproduced.
Another example is in the 19th century early gold miners in California developed a trade in rights to draw from water courses based on the doctrine of prior appropriation. This was curtailed in 1902 by the Newlands Reclamation Act which introduced subsidies for irrigation projects. This had the effect of sending a signal to farmers that water was inexpensive and abundant, leading to uneconomic use of a scarce resource. Increasing difficulties in meeting demand for water in the western United States have been blamed on the continuing establishment of governmental control and a return to tradable property rights has been proposed.
According to Richard L. Stroup, markets in the environmental field, in order to function well, require "3-D" property rights to each important resource -- i.e., rights that are clearly defined, easily defended against invasion, and divestible (transferable) by owners on terms agreeable to buyer and seller. The first two rights prevent property owners from being forced to accept pollution, and the third right provides an incentive for owners to be good stewards. 
Many free-market environmentalists argue that the problem of regulatory capture whereby large companies play a large role in setting regulations has created a system where things are far too biased in favor of large companies. For instance, in the United States lands that could be more valuably used for tourism are often used for resource extraction because the many disorganized tourists cannot have the same impact on government as the few organized corporations. If the land was privately held the land owner would realize that tourism would make more of a profit than logging and nature would be preserved.
The implementation of property rights provides governments with an opportunity to raise revenues. This has been illustrated by recent auctions of bands of the electromagnetic spectrum for telephony, another example of an attempt to manage a scarce resource through property rights rather than regulation. Such auctions offer an alternative to conventional taxation for funding public spending, by capitalizing the expected rent earned by the privatized good. Some economists, most notably Henry George in the 1870s, have argued that taxes on income and profits represent taxes on productivity, innovation and creativity and that we should rather tax land rents and externalities such as pollution, consumption of fossil fuels and road congestion. Environmental property rights offer a means to shift taxation from "goods" to "bads" and rents.
One example of free market attempt to protect the environment is The Nature Conservancy organization. It has been successful in protecting many sensitive, ecologically important places by simply purchasing them, although this practice has met with controversy in some areas. In some cases the lands are donated or sold to government agencies for management, while in others the Nature Conservancy itself manages these preserves. Billionaire Ted Turner has a similar private program that has seen him buy up tens of thousands of acres of wilderness around the United States.
There are a number of arguments against free-market environmentalism:
Historically, Tort Law has been of limited efficacy for confronting environmental problems. According to the World Bank, "tort law, based as it is on the protection of individual rights and the need to prove specific injury, has not been a significant means of preventing environmental degradation."  Similarly, in "Law in Environmental Decision-Making" legal scholar Jenny Steele notes that in respect to protection of the environment, "a number of historical studies have assessed the extent of tort's impact in this respect, to generally critical effect."  In the environmental law textbook, "Environmental Protection", Sue Elworth and Jane Holder argue that the most significant limitation of common law, including tort law "was, and continues to be that the protection of private property is the rationale of private law and its motivation...Environmental protection may be effected through the protection of property rights. But private law is said to act only to protect the individualized self-interested claim, which considerably constrains legal action. The main doubt about the ability of private law to provide an appropriate means of protecting the environment is that environmental problems demand collective action, there is therefore some resistance to the idea that individual rights might contribute to collective progress towards environmental protection."  Class action, however, is every bit as capable of direct tort-based restitution as individual legal action.
Not all aspects of the public domain are easily "privatisable" in practice. It may be impossible to establish property rights on things like air and water that circulate the globe, so stopping air pollution or global warming on an individual basis would be very difficult. Coasian environmentalists often support carbon trading schemes advocated by other environmentalist movements. The US Clean Air Act of 1990, for instance, set up a system of emissions trading for sulfur dioxide. The Kyoto protocol also seeks to establish a system of emissions trading for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Rothbardians reject government-imposed emissions trading schemata, and instead maintain that pollution is by definition a matter of Lockean property rights being violated, and hence should be handled as a subject of individual or class action tort, as any other invasion of property. As long as there is an aggressor and a victim, there is a tort.
Some believe that the conservation of endangered species is not necessarily achievable using the free market, especially where there is little economic value in the species in question. For example: there might be only limited profit to be made from a piece of land by maintaining it as the habitat of a rare beetle, whereas alternative economic uses for that land (which might be deleterious to the welfare of the beetle) - such as building a parking lot on it - might yield a greater profit. Regardless of the broader ecological importance of the beetle, it is much more likely that the landowner will prioritize short-term profits to be gained from development, rather than a long-term benefit which may be of comparably little (perhaps even imperceptible on the surface) benefit to himself. Thus, threatened or endangered species could be lost by relying on the willingness of individual landowners to take a loss in order to protect them.
A related philosophical objection is that free-market environmentalism is entirely anthropocentric and ignores the "innate" value of nature outside of human perception. (see ecocentrism). But even in the world of politics, someone must see and place a value on the environment or specie in question in order for it to be protected.
The principle of limited liability protects investors from the costs of the activities from which they benefit. In the U.S., there have been recent suggestions that, while limited liability towards creditors is socially beneficial in facilitating investment, the privilege ought not to extend to liability in tort for environmental disasters or personal injury.  In fact, most free-market environmentalists oppose limited liability in torts as a form of corporate welfare and a limitation of full property rights.
Countering the tragedy of the commons claim, Elinor Ostrom has studied a large number of empirical cases where common property resources have been managed successfully. Her work emphasizes neither private property/market arrangements nor government regulation but the successes of communities consciously designing institutional arrangements in response to particular common property dilemmas. The stress is on democratic institutions that allow the users of the common to govern the commons.
Today, the sciences of ecology and environmental science, rather than any aesthetic goals, provide the basis of unity to most serious environmentalists. As more information is gathered in scientific fields, more scientific issues like biodiversity, as opposed to mere aesthetics, are a concern. Conservation biology is a rapidly developing field. Environmentalism now has proponents in business: new ventures such as those to reuse and recycle consumer electronics and other technical equipment are gaining popularity. Computer liquidators are just one example.
In recent years, the environmental movement has increasingly focused on global warming as a top issue. As concerns about climate change moved more into the mainstream, from the connections drawn between global warming and Hurricane Katrina to Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, many environmental groups refocused their efforts. In the United States, 2007 witnessed the largest grassroots environmental demonstration in years, Step It Up 2007, with rallies in over 1,400 communities and all 50 states for real global warming solutions.
Many religious organizations and individual churches now have programs and activities dedicated to environmental issues.  The religious movement is often supported by interpretation of scriptures.  Most major religious groups are represented including Jewish, Islamic, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, Christian and Catholic.
Radical environmentalism is a grassroots branch of the larger environmental movement that emerged out of an ecocentrism-based frustration with the co-option of mainstream environmentalism. It is the ideology behind the radical environmental movement.
The radical environmental movement aspires to what scholar Christopher Manes calls "a new kind of environmental activism: iconoclastic, uncompromising, discontented with traditional conservation policy, at time illegal ..." Radical environmentalism presupposes a need to reconsider Western ideas of religion and philosophy (including capitalism, patriarchy and globalization) sometimes through "resacralising" and reconnecting with nature.
The movement is typified by leaderless resistance organizations such as Earth First!, which subscribe to the idea of taking direct action in defense of "Mother Earth" including civil disobedience, ecotage and monkeywrenching. Movements such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Earth Liberation Army (ELA) also take this form of action, although focus on economic sabotage, rather than civil disobedience. Radical environmentalists include earth liberationists as well as anarcho-primitivists, animal liberationists, bioregionalists, green anarchists, deep ecologists, ecopsychologists, ecofeminists, neo-Pagans, Wiccans, Third Positionists, anti-globalization and anti-capitalist protesters.
Whilst many people believe that the first significant radical environmentalist group was Greenpeace, which made use of direct action beginning in the 1970s to confront whaling ships and nuclear weapons testers, others within the movement, argues as Earth Liberation Front (ELF) prisoner Jeff "Free" Luers, suggests that the movement was established centuries ago. He often writes that the concept of "eco-defence" was born shortly after the existence of the human race, claiming it is only recently that within the modern development of human society, and individuals losing touch with the earth and its wild roots, that more radical tactics and political theories have emerged.
The alternative tactic of using explosive and incendiary devices was then established in 1976, by John Hanna and others as the Environmental Life Force (ELF), also now known as the original ELF. The group conducted a campaign of armed actions in northern California and Oregon, later disbanding in 1978 following Hanna's arrest for placing incendiary devices on seven crop-dusters at the Salinas, California airport on May Day, 1977. It wasn't until over a decade and a half later that this form of guerrilla warfare resurfaced as the Earth Liberation Front  using the same ELF acronym.
In 1980 Earth First! was founded by Dave Foreman and others to confront environmental destruction, primarily of the American West. Inspired by the Edward Abbey novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang", Earth First! made use of such techniques as treesitting and treespiking to stop logging companies, as well as other activities targeted towards mining, road construction, suburban development and energy companies.
The organization were committed to nonviolent ecotage techniques from the group's inception, with those that split from the movement in the 1990s including the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) in 1992, naming themselves after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) who formed in the 1970s. Three years later in Canada, inspired by the ELF in Europe the first Earth Liberation direct action occurred, but this time as the Earth Liberation Army (ELA), a similar movement who use ecotage and monkeywrenching as a tool, although no guidelines had been published.
The ELF gained national attention for a series of actions which earned them the label of eco-terrorists, including the burning of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado in 1998, and the burning of an SUV dealership in Oregon in 1999. In the same year the ELA had made headlines by setting fire to the Vail Resorts in Washington, D.C., causing $12 million in damages. The defendants in the case were later charged in the FBI's "Operation Backfire", along with other arsons and cases, which were later named by environmentalists as the Green Scare; alluding to the Red Scare, periods of fear over communist infiltration of U.S. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks several laws were passed increasing the penalty for ecoterrorism, and hearings were held in Congress discussing the activity of groups such as the ELF. To date no one has been killed as a result of an ELF or ALF action since both groups forbid harming human or non-human life. It was then announced in 2003 that "eco-terrorist" attacks, known as "ecotage", had increased from the ELF, ELA and the "Environmental Rangers", another name used be activists when engaging in similar activity.
In 2005 the FBI announced that the ELF, is America's greatest domestic terrorist threat, responsible for over 1,200 "criminal incidents" amounting to tens of millions of dollars in damage to property,  with the United States Department of Homeland Security confirming this regarding the ALF and ELF. 
Plane Stupid then was launched in 2005, in an attempt to combat the growing airport expansions in the UK using direct action with a year later the first Camp for Climate Action being held with 600 people attending a protest called Reclaim Power converging on Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire and attempted to shut it down. There were thirty-eight arrests, with four breaching the fence and the railway line being blocked. 
Radical environmentalism has been called a new religious movement by Bron Taylor (1998). Taylor contends that "Radical environmentalism is best understood as a new religious movement that views environmental degradation as an assault on a sacred, natural world."
Several philosophies have arisen from ideas in radical environmentalism that includes Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism, Social Ecology, and Bioregionalism.
Deep Ecology is attributed to Arne Naess and is defined as “a normative, ecophilosophical movement that is inspired and fortified in part by our experience as humans in nature and in part by ecological knowledge”. 
Ecofeminism originated in the 1970s and draws a parallel between the oppression of women in patriarchal societies and the oppression of the environment.
Social Ecology is an idea attributed to Murray Bookchin, who argued that in order to save the environment, human society needed to copy the structure of nature and decentralize both socially and economically. 
Bioregionalism is a philosophy that focuses on the practical application of Social Ecology, and theorizes on “building and living in human social communities that are compatible with ecological systems”.