The most dynamic social protest in the west in the later 1970s tended to be environmental campaigns, which mounted some major direct action protests against nuclear power. By the 1980s environmental groups like Greenpeace were also taking direct action against nuclear tests, and green protests often overlapped with peace activism. These protests also developed new styles of informal democratic organization for mass demonstrations. Green resistance to logging, dams, motorways, toxic dumps and other environmental hazards mounted during the 1980s and 1990s and continues today in various contexts. Uprooting genetically modified crops was widespread in the early 2000s. Opposition to ‘fracking’ (releasing gas from shale) has become a key issue in the second decade of the 21st century. An overarching threat to the global environment is the impact of climate change, and promoting means of limiting change and resisting economic activities which accelerate climate change has become central to green thinking and campaigning.
Green activists have taken up nonviolent direct action with daring and imagination, greatly extending the range of tactics used. Some greens have also used forms of sabotage (ecotage), raising questions about the limits of nonviolence. But, alongside direct action, environmental campaigners have also developed sophisticated lobbying techniques, some have moved towards closer cooperation with corporations and governments, and others have developed green political parties to fight local, national and (where relevant) EU elections. As in many movements, greens are divided over strategy, so moderate (‘realistic’) approaches are opposed by the more radical groups. The ideological range stretches from ‘deep ecologists’ to people protecting local neighbourhoods. Direct action against roads and airports, for example, is often undertaken by committed environmentalists, but many may also be supported by local residents trying to minimise disruption to their locality. Opposition to nuclear energy and the dangers of radiation leaks was a focus for many green s in the 1970s, but growing concern about climate change has meant that some green advocates now see nuclear energy as less dangerous than more immediately destructive forms of energy releasing CFCs. However, the destructive impact of the earthquake and tsunami on the Fukushima Dalichi reactor in March 2011 aroused widespread fears about the extent of radioactive fallout inside Japan, and reminded others of the potential hazards of nuclear power. The Japanese government’s decision in March 2014 to restart two nuclear reactors (all had been closed down in the aftermath of the accident) led to protests.
Environmental concerns have not of course been confined to developed states. Many countries in the Global South have been exposed to devastating pollution through the activities of irresponsible corporations – oil pollution created by Shell in the Niger delta over decades, and the release of poisonous gas from the explosion of the United Carbide Bhopal chemical plant in India with deadly results – are two well known examples. There are many others, for example pollution of the Peruvian Amazon by oil companies for over 40 years, a danger increased since the Peruvian government made three quarters of the rain forest available to corporations for drilling in 2008. Many local and indigenous communities are engaged in bitter struggles to preserve their land, livelihood and way of life from logging, mining, oil drilling or, more recently, widespread commercial planting for biofuels. (For references to resistance to multinationals engaged in mining, logging and oil drilling see A.4.a. and A.4.b, and for some indigenous campaigns see B.2.a. and B.2.b.)
Development of environmental protest can sometimes be a prelude to more widespread resistance in politically repressive regimes, both because individuals may be mobilized by specific environmental issues and because focusing on pollution etc. is a less direct challenge to the regime than specific political opposition. There was a rise in environmental awareness and protest in the Soviet bloc during the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes linked to nationalist discontent (as in the Baltic states); and green protest is one strand in the opposition to Putin today (see Vol. 1). There have also been many environmental protests in China since the 1990s, where the regime has gradually become more responsive to environmental concerns, increasing penalties for industrial pollution in amendments to an environmental protection law in April 2014. Even in less authoritarian regimes, wider political dissatisfaction may be sparked by a specific green issue, as happened in Turkey in June 2013, when protest to save Gezi Park in Istanbul developed into a major movement (see H.1.c.). Warnings and analyses of possible environmental disaster by scientists have become increasingly common since the ground-breaking book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962. Green theorists and activists have also developed new interpretations of economics – exploring sustainable development, political thought, philosophy and spirituality. These literatures are not covered here.
Relevant periodicals: The Ecologist has long been a useful source of information on green issues and campaigns; in September 2014 it merged with Resurgence, which had adopted a nonviolent green agenda, to form: Resurgence and Ecologist. Environmental campaigns are also covered by movement periodicals such as Peace News and New Internationalist.
Online sources are now numerous: see for example, Earth Tribe Activist News, Reporting the Environmental Movement: http://www.earthtribe.co
For the many green campaigns involving indigenous peoples see: Survival International: http://www.survivalinternational.org