This is a history of the word “environmentalism” and of the social movement that embraced this word in the 1960s. For a century “environmentalists” were Geography Professors who believed a people’s development and culture were entirely determined by the physical area in which they lived. The term “environmentalist” was appropriated in the late 1960s by an old social movement struggling to defend Europe’s landowning community. This social movement co-opted an influential contingent of wealthy families from the US Northeast. The twin goals of this elite trans-Atlantic social movement have always been: the placing of industrial enterprises under state controlputting a stop to colonial land expansion. Ironically, the old school geographical “environmentalism” provides a useful set of directives toward understanding the modern Environmentalist social movement.
Circa 1000 BC the Greek word “gyr” appeared in “gyros” meaning “circle”. Gyr was conquered by the Romans whose “gyrare” meant “to circle”. Dark Age Franks turned “gyr” into “vir”. “Veer” is current English for “to turn”. To turn and turn or “virir” was to circle around. “Environ” is Old French for “in a circle”. “Environ” the verb, meant to surround or enclose. “Environs” the noun, meant the surrounding area or vicinity. (1)
In 1374 Chaucer took “environment” (envyronynge) to mean an area’s circumference. Carlyle popularized “environment” in the 1820s writing: “Baireuth with its kind picturesque environment” and “in such an element with such an environment of circumstances.”(2) By 1850 “environment” was widely used as a substitute for: neighbourhood, context, situation or entourage. The core concept was the surrounding circle – the circumstances, circumjacencies or circumambiencies. “Environmentalism” emerged around 1875 referring to a faction within academic Geography trapped in a protracted debate with their dialectical opponents: “the possibilists”.
Geography is the academic spin-off of the ancient commercial crafts of surveying and mapmaking and the older military arts of reconnaissance and logistics. Around 250 BC Eratosthenes used shadow-angle measurements to reveal “Geo” to be a spherical rock. His circumference estimate was off by a small fraction. Eratosthenes named the science with his Geograghica; however, Hippocrates’ On Air, Waters, and Places (400 BC) is the first Geography text, and the first example of Geographical “environmentalism”.
Geographical “environmentalists” believe a people’s economy and culture are completely determined by the physical area in which they live. This geographical determinism resurfaces in mid-1700s French political essays. In the 1820s some French Universities elevated Geography up from being a mere sub-discipline of Geology. This Geography was synonymous with the determinist or “environmentalist” perspective; however, the term “environmentalism” gained currency only after a rival school of Geography developed 60 years later. French geographical-environmentalism peaked with Prof. Victor Cousins’ famous:
“Give me the map of the country...and I pledge myself to tell you, a priori...what part that country will play in history, not by accident but of necessity; not at one epoch, but in all epochs.”(3)
Such staunch necessitarianism invited opposition. The earliest book from a different perspective was American George Marsh’s Man and Nature (1864; reissued as The Earth as Modified by Human Action). Rather than interpreting how environmental conditions shape civilizations, he described how civilizations shape their environment. The book circulated in New England Universities but was little read until its rediscovery in the 1930s.
German Universities trailed the French. When the first German University was founded (Heidelberg; 1386), France had 15. Sorbonne dates to the 1100s. By the 1830s, when Humboldt pioneered German Geography as a distinct discipline, there were 24 German Universities. A dozen were added over the next century, bringing them up to speed.
In 1874 King Wilhelm ordered Geography be made an advanced field of study and research. He ordered every Prussian University establish Chairs of Geography occupied by full professors. By 1880 ten Chairs had been appointed. Continental Universities marched in lock step.
This policy framed the life of Prof. Ferdinand von Richthofen (1833-1905) an aristocrat who, like Humboldt, went on ant-like sojourns collecting rocks, plants, and soil samples. He explored America for German mining interests, becoming an impromptu journalist after stumbling onto the Comstock silver rush. He explored China for years, discovering the Shantung coal fields, picking Tsingtao as a German harbour site, and writing a five-volume treatise on Chinese Geography. After his celebrity-making travels, Richthofen was a leading lecturer and writer on geographical theory and method. Although more practically inclined than earlier geographers, Richthofen still emphasised the prevailing influence a land’s surface has upon its inhabitants (the geographical-environmentalist perspective). (4)
Another geographical-environmentalist, Prof. Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904) was the Grand Duke of Baden’s butler’s son. Ratzel’s mission was America which he explored with an interest in the Geography of race. He studied locations of US Black and Chinese communities and the Native’s disappearing habitat. His Political Geography (1897) promoted a racially-focused geographical-environmentalism and an expansionist German foreign policy; ideas furthered in his The Living Room (1901). German geographical-environmentalism flowed into national chauvinism with Ratzel arguing: culturally the German “sense of place” corner-stoned the unique “collective psychology of its inhabitants”; and biologically Germans were genetically modified by their environment. (5)
A 1880s British Royal Geographical Society report warned Britain’s geographical scholarship lagged the Continent’s. Geography Chairs were established at Oxford (1887) and Cambridge (1888). When British Geography found its voice, it was decidedly determinist. In 1902 Oxford Geography Chair, Halford Mackinder, published Britain and the British Seas claiming the Isle of Britannia pre-ordained a maritime culture uniquely impervious to invasion. This environment spawned the British Navy, a premiere merchant fleet, and ultimately a maritime-based British Empire. In Democratic Ideals and Reality (1919) he claimed Geography dictated an unbridgeable divide between liberal, progressive sea-faring states of coastal Europe and terminally conservative, land-locked states of Eurasia.
Before the British entered the discussion, French geographers overthrew environmentalism. Prof. Vidal de La Blanche, first Sorbonne Geography Chair whose doctorate was on Geography, defined Geography as: surveying, mapping and painting detailed word pictures about small homogenous regions. His disciples created meticulous, luminous descriptions of every French hectare. He launched the attack on environmentalism in response to Ratzel’s expansionist conclusions.
Vidal de La Blanche denounced the crude predestinarianism of German Geography offering in its place the “possibilist” doctrine. Possibilists recorded examples of peoples from similar environments who developed quite differently. To possibilists, the environment merely presented a set of possibilities, or opportunities, which might be acted upon: “there are nowhere necessities, but everywhere possibilities; and man, as master of possibilities, is the judge of their use.”(6)
The first prominent US Geography text E. Semple’s Influences of Geographic Environment (1911) was a re-working of Ratzel’s approach i.e. the study of a physical surroundings’ influence on national development was Geography. In spite of this, environmentalists were losing ground in English-speaking Geography faculties with possibilism prevailing over “static environmentalism” in Britain by the 1930s.
Some German Geographers went possibilist but most were marshalled under the command of Ratzellian environmentalists R. Kjellen and K. Haushofer. Kjellen’s Geopolitiks depicted the Germanic race as an amoeba-like organism needing, and deserving, more living room. Haushofer’s “Journal of Geopolitiks” provided geographical rationales for every twist of Nazi foreign policy until 1946 when the Nuremburg suits came a-knocking and he blew his brains out.
The “environmentalist-possibilist” dichotomy was sidestepped by leading US Geographers who eschewed the “human” debate in favour of “areal differentiation” i.e. surveying, mapping, photographing and writing word pictures of different areas. Leading US Geographer Richard Hartshorne said Geography was the: “accurate, orderly, and rational description and interpretation of the variable character of the Earths’ surface.”(7) But “Human Geography” persisted. British historian A. Toynbee revived the debate in the 1930s by writing of the transformative impact of colonialism’s “stimulus of New Ground”.
A few restatements of environmentalism and possiblism circulated in the 1950s but the trend was toward middle ground “probablists” who argued the presence of valuable natural resources within an environment probably will lead to those resources being exploited with available technology, thus pre-ordaining many of the characteristics of any people living in that area. In other words, a people living on land with a long growing season will not necessarily grow crops like cotton or sugar but they probably will. While probablists rejected environmental determinism, they still believed: “historical, sociological, economic, anthropological, political, and even religious and aesthetic phenomena cannot be properly comprehended without careful attention to environmental considerations”. (8)
In the 1960s, efforts to reel Geography down to Earth could not overcome the pull of Human Geography. People wanted to know the geographical influence on the growth and distribution of human settlements. They studied how trade routes channelled human migration and promoted urban development. They intensely analysed the geographical diffusion (spread) of technology, customs and beliefs. Human Geographers were fascinated by the locations of state borders, by the geo-politics of international alliances, and with the relationship between core, metropolitan areas to peripheral, colonial ones. They did areal analysis of voting patterns and researched how cultural landscapes created by architects and planners arise from natural landscapes and how they affect belief and behaviour.
Before the word “environmentalism” was whisked away in that late sixties green limousine, it developed two other academic meanings. In Psychology “environmentalists” stressed the importance of personal surroundings, as opposed to genetic inheritance, in determining a person’s mental qualities. In the biological sciences, particularly in Ecology, the “environmentalists” believed external conditions, or environmental resistance, were the dominating force shaping an organisms’ evolution.
the social movement
The social movement abruptly appropriating “environmentalism” in the late 1960s was roughly 200 years old at the time. This social movement emerged in 18th century England in opposition to the Industrial Revolution. As the Industrial Revolution’s techniques and troubles spread out from England, so did this social movement. By the late 1700s the horizon of the Industrial Revolution encircled Western Europe and New England.
This is a large, complex social movement operating on shifting terrain over several generations; and hence, it is difficult to name. Over two centuries, not only did this social movement’s turf expand, the location of its internal centre of initiative and leadership moved about within the affected area. As well, this social movement was always an omnibus of inter-connected smaller single-issue social movements dedicated to: forest conservation, population control, eugenics, wetlands-protection, organic farming, soil pollution, air pollution, etc. Over time the social movement’s emphasis shifted from one issue to another. Nevertheless, this social movement has clear dynastic and ideological continuity – like the ol’ carpenter’s hammer which, after many heads and handles, is still working fine.
The Industrial Revolution induced a hostile reaction within certain European ruling circles. Urbanization and manufacturing concentrated communities of wealthy businessmen into sprawling, unruly cities. Wherever this happened, Republicanism broke out as these businessmen grievously resented irrational, anti-democratic, Monarchist governance. Republicanism was much discussed before, but industrialization gave the cause numbers and resources. Also, technological revolutions in shipping and publishing set in motion a cultural cosmopolitanism incompatible with Church dogmatism and Royal absolutism. From the French Revolution of 1789 through the torrents of 1848, violent Republican rebellions in Western Europe were numerous.
In addition, the Industrial Revolution facilitated the colonialist migration of herds of European peasants toward cheaper pastures. Not only were Europe’s great landed proprietors losing their best tenants, these same farmers were flooding the world market with cheap colonial produce.
Hence there emerged an action-orientated social movement of feudal reactionaries whose principal goal was the preservation of their own aristocratic status. They realized military and economic competition necessitated some technological development but they wanted slow, state-supervised industrialization to prevent Republican business interests from politically overwhelming land-owning dynasties.
This social movement wanted colonial expansion stopped and reversed. They were successful in passing the reactionary British Royal Proclamation of 1763 which criminalized European settlement west of established North American colonies; a policy which, along with efforts to suppress colonial industry, precipitated the American Revolution.
In both France and Russia, feudal reactionaries, and the communities they fought for, were annihilated. However, most European countries found wobbly compromises whereby the aristocracy kept their heads and estates but watched control over the state slip away. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution made many European aristocrats phenomenally wealthy as their estates sprouted urban neighbourhoods.
Not for lack of trying, America never developed a real, titled aristocracy. Lord Baltimore attempted to establish a system of Manor houses in Maryland but, as with similar experiments to the north, the close proximity of so much land doomed efforts to create a population of tenant farmers. Only in the Hudson Valley did an old world-style landlord-peasant system take hold. However, over time an aristocrat like group did emerge in the original colonies. Some families achieved this status by hanging on to vast land holdings accumulated during the revolutionary era. (Virginian Robert Carter owned over 450 square miles of land.) A more travelled route to neo-aristocratic status was successful industrialists diversifying their assets by buying real estate later bequeathed to their children.
From the landlord’s perspective, the main threat to the agricultural land market was the availability of cheap colonial land. The Puritans gave a free farm to every family getting off the boat. One of the first laws implemented by the American government was the Land Ordinance Act (1785). This law dispatched government surveyors to draw up 36-square-mile “townships” in the wilderness west of existing settlements. The government reserved two separate square mile “sections” for schools and churches, etc., then they divided the rest of the township into ¼ section (160 acre) lots and auctioned them off to the public. When that township filled up, the surveyors moved west...
An alliance of New England landlords and Southern plantation owners largely thwarted the sale of public lands by successfully lobbying for high minimum prices ($2 an acre) and a high minimum purchase (320 acres). They were supported by leading politician Alexander Hamilton whose:
“policy reflected the conservative views of Eastern business interests desiring a check on the agricultural class and the systematic regulation of the labour supply”. (9)
These “interests” bought up whole townships to prevent them from being settled. Jefferson called Hamilton “dangerously aristocratic”. Here’s an account of social conditions in turn-of-the-19th-century New England where conservative land policies prevailed:
“(New England) was rapidly becoming more and more an old world society, old world in the sense in the size of farms, old world in the sense of an increasingly wide and articulated social hierarchy, old world in that ‘the poor’ were ever present and in increasing numbers.”(10)
The US Civil War removed Southern plantation owners from the Washington DC equation, allowing President Lincoln to override opposition from New England landlords and pass the Homestead Act in 1862. During the Lincoln Administration, Uncle Sam donned top hat and tails and barked an irresistible bargain to the poor, huddled peasants of New England and Europe: 160 acres, No money down!, full legal title, free, in five years if a house built and farm running, or full title after 6 months occupancy at a buck and a quarter an acre (minimum purchase 160 acres). European peasants flocked in by the hundreds of thousands. Texas and Canada ran similar programs.
Even worse for European land magnates, Uncle Sam, to finance the construction of transcontinental railroads, granted the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Central Pacific Railroad, 10 square miles of land for every mile of track laid in the United States and 20 square miles of land for every mile of track laid in the western territories all the way to the Pacific. The Northern Pacific line was given a sweeter deal. The Canadian Pacific Railroad was given 40,000 square miles of fertile farmland. The railroaders were in dire need of farmers and they knew where to get them. Railroad agents ran slick advertizing campaigns across Europe, under the Prince’s noses, to lure peasants. (11)
Add to this the flight of peasants to Argentina, Australia and Southern Africa and one can see why the British House of Lords and their Continental counterpart, Harrenhaus, were not amused. Europe was haemorrhaging farmers! New World wilderness needed protection!
It is difficult to separate honest public health activism from this social movement’s anti-technological activism. Concerns about soil and water quality pre-date this movement’s campaign to corral industrial enterprise. Thus, early British laws aimed at reducing the deleterious effects of coal burning and chemical manufacturing are of indeterminate motive. However the 1850s English activists who sought to stop railway development and spoke of “conserving” the countryside were clearly motivated by a deeper, broader agenda.
By the 1870s there were widespread, high-level efforts to “conserve” the countryside in Europe and the wilderness in America. Phobias of overpopulation were the conservationist’s constant companion. Conservationists bluntly opposed liberalism: the State was to protect wilderness, conserve resources and control industry.
Conservationist concerns worked their way to the top of the US government by the 1870s with the founding the Bureau of Fisheries (1871) and with legislation making the Grand Canyon off limits to commercial development (1872). Canada followed by founding Banff National Park. In the next decades America witnessed the formation of the Audubon Society, Boone and Crockett Clubs, and the Sierra Club. These groups successfully lobbied for “parks” and “wildlife refuges” where land would be left undeveloped. They were keen to prevent settlement in prime areas of the Midwest and California.
Conservationists drew support from newly minted scientific organizations with expertise in “naturalism” and “biological conservation”. In 1885 the US government formed the Bureau of Biological Survey to aid wildlife conservation. Soon after, the Presidency assumed wide powers to “protect” any forest from harvesting or settlement.
Between the 1870s and 1890s, to stifle westward agricultural expansion, conservationists within the US Bureau of Forests ran a climate change hoax. The three first chiefs of the Bureau each authored articles alleging forests generate rain clouds. They succeeded in lobbying for the Timber Culture Act 1873 requiring each homesteader to plant forty acres of trees. This climate change hoax was also used as a rationale to prevent forest clearances. (12) (Settlers developed a rival climate mythology called “rain follows the plough” arguing newly broken soil had rain-making properties.)
Teddy Roosevelt, scion of the Northeastern landlords, bet his political career on confronting industry. He personally helped found conservation-orientated hunting and wilderness groups. He expanded the Presidential conservational authority to include not just forests but waterpower sites, coal and oil fields, and mineral deposits. TR closed 194 million acres to commercial development. He created the first wildlife refuge at Pelican Island, Florida in 1903. He appointed European-trained conservationist Gifford Pinchot first Chief of the new-fangled US Forest Service in 1905.
In 1908 TR summoned the Conservation Conference at the White House, attended by State Governors, Supreme Court justices, cabinet members, and academic notables. Out of this meeting came the National Conservation Commission, which Congress refused to fund, forcing TR to implement the Commission’s agenda with a coalition of volunteer government staff and private conservation organizations.
Pinchot was considered a sell-out by the next layer of movement activists. A more radical “preservationist” tradition dating to John Muir (1838-1914) was carried on by the likes of Aldo Leopold (1887-1948). Leopold was a wildlife management professor, and promoter of a quasi-religious land ethic in which humans were relegated to mere citizens of Nature, not its masters. Leopold played a leading role in the 1924 formation of the Gila National Forest – America’s first major national wilderness area.
On the international stage, the social movement achieved a breakthrough in 1902 when the “Convention for the Protection of Birds” was signed by 12 European states (all monarchies). This treaty restricted the amount of available farmland by prohibiting wetland drainage – a common way of bringing additional, fertile, land into agricultural production. A similar Convention “for the birds” was signed in 1916 by the US and the UK on Canada’s behalf. (These two states had earlier signed a treaty on Great Lakes conservation.)
In 1911 the “Convention for the Preservation of Fur Seals” was signed by the US, UK, Japan, and Russia. This was followed in the 1930s with the “Convention for the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State” signed by UK, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa. The signers envisioned an Africa-wide network of no-development zones to block the colonial “scramble for Africa”.
Treaties proved useful tools for this social movement. Many politicians signed such agreements as conciliatory gestures with little regard for a treaty’s ability to subtly steer national policy. Treaties created permanent specialized constituencies as national governments, after signing, felt compelled to fund groups involved in the stated conservation issues. As well, the conservationist social movement knew how to use a signed treaty’s door-opening state imprimatur to mobilize further resources.
The Continental European wing of this social movement mutated into the international Fascist movement in 1920s. In Italy, Spain, and Germany, Fascist movements, led by those nation’s first families, revolted against modernity. In 1941 Europe was Fascist.
The “sciences” of Geopolitiks and Ecology were Fascist propaganda pillars. Another feature of Fascist propaganda was the cynical “Big Lies” told by the Fascists to maintain relentless hysteria and mobilization. After 1945 the leading aristocrats and clerical reactionaries of this social movement were on the run in Eastern Europe and keeping a low profile in the West.
During this period, philanthropists came to the forefront of US conservationism and eugenics. The Rockefellers fought a legendary battle in the 1920s against ranchers to “protect” Wyoming. They eventually bought 30,000 acres of prime land and gave it to the government on condition it never be developed. The Rockefeller Foundation became the principal bankroller of a variety of conservationist and population control initiatives. In 1936, Fascist sympathizer Henry Ford directed his son to create the Ford Foundation – also a major bankroller of the conservation/population control movement.
This social movement benefitted greatly from a second Northeastern patrician-come-President named Roosevelt. FDR’s pet project was the Civilian Conservation Corps: 500,000 men replanting forests and maintaining forest trails. The CCC was ostensibly a “make-work” program but the focus and results were conservationist. His administration’s Taylor Grazing Act, and subsequent executive orders, effectively killed homesteading by excluding the best land from settlement. FDR fought to take existing farmland out of production; a move first pitched as a price support system but later sold as a soil conservation program. FDR pulled together various federal agencies to form the movement-orientated US Fish and Wildlife Service. Many American conservationist organizations date to this period: Ducks Unlimited, Wilderness Federation, Isaac Walton League etc.
A compendium of conservationist and overpopulation phobias was published by philanthropist Fairfield Osborne in his genre-founding Our Plundered Planet (1948). A year later Osborne gave the keynote address at the United Nations Scientific Conference on Conservation and Utilization of Resources, held at Lake Success, New York, warning of a looming world overpopulation crisis. In the 1950s he published The Limits of the Earth. When Osborne’s fellow philanthropist, Nelson Rockefeller, was elected New York Governor in 1958, his first proposal was to take vast amounts of existing farmland out of production; recommending the government rent the fields from the farmers and reforest them.
In Europe the social movement slowly resurfaced after WWII, starting in Britain and Holland. Their first post-war victory was the 1948 formation of the International Union for the Protection of Nature (later the International Union for Conservation of Nature; IUCN). Through the IUCN, the movement returned to the strategy of establishing international treaties. Also during this time, the Fascist-riddled British organic farming movement regrouped as the Soil Association.
In 1958 the movement organized the United Nations Conference on Law of Sea (UNCLOS I) followed in 1960 by UNCLOS II. In the next year, what became the world’s largest conservationist organization, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was founded by a coterie of aristocrats, notably Prince Bernhard von Lippe Biesterfeld and Prince Phillip Saxe-Coburg-Goethe. Prince Bernhard (then patriarch of the House of Orange-Nassau) had earlier founded the Bilderburg Summit group – an influential talk-shop of leading European politicians and academics. (13) Prince Phillip (patriarch of the House of Windsor) spent the 1950s promoting parks in the UK. Soon after the WWF launch, British newspapers were splattered with images of slaughtered African wildlife.
By 1960 the US Northeast’s population was 50 million and the strip from Bangor to Baltimore was the planet’s most valuable real estate. Those who inherited blocks of Boston, New York, and New Jersey inherited aristocratic perspectives as well. This partially resulted from European aristocrats marrying into wealthy American families. The neo-aristocratic cohort consisted of old money Northeasters (not just New Englanders) whose inherited fortunes were parcels of Northeastern real estate and associated businesses. These dynasts were the principal shareholders, customers and partners of major Northeastern-based banks and insurance companies. Like their European aristocratic role models, with whom they socialized, the Northeastern neo-aristocrat’s political platform was: subjugate technology and stop colonialism.
Rachel Carson’s anti-chemical industry diatribe, Silent Spring (1962), does not mark the beginning of a social movement. Her theory that industrial agriculture was contaminating the soil was a staple of Fascist propaganda. Carson’s book (originally given the cliché title “Man against Nature”) is thematically the same as Osborne’s Plundered Planet or Marsh’s Man and Nature (then approaching its 100th anniversary).
Silent Spring does mark a change in this social movement’s scale and sophistication. Carson was a staff naturalist writer for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. One of her naturalist books was made into a movie by Joe Kennedy. She was an acquaintance of Larry Rockefeller with whom she met prior to Silent Spring’s release. The social movement super-hyped the book; selling 500,000 hard cover copies in its first run. Before the ink was dry, President Kennedy ordered an investigation into the “pollution crisis”.
The American conservation struggle was largely a legal one. Primary legal precedents include the Trail Smelter Ruling that: “no State has the right to use or permit to use its territory in such a manner as to cause injury by fumes in or to the territory of another”. (14) A far greater triumph was the 1965 Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference vs. Federal Power Commission where a Federal Appeals Court voided the FPC’s license to build a hydro-electric plant because it would blight an area of “stunning natural beauty”. (15)
Therefore, it was NOT a new social movement which embraced the word “environment” in the late 1960s. Rather it was a wizened trans-Atlantic social movement with a long record of incorporating its agenda into government policy. The movement’s aim was nothing short of the transformation of humanity.
The Western neo-aristocratic social movement appropriated the word “environment” between 1966 and 1969. However, there are pre-1966 examples of the term being used, with its current meaning, by persons from that social movement. The term is found in P.S. Sears, Man’s Role in the Changing Face of the Earth (1956):
“The situation is clouded by a widespread confidence that this impact of man upon environment can continue indefinitely.”(16)
The phrase “environmental safety” appeared in the Financial Times in the following year. By the early 1960s the phrase “environmental sciences” was used in contradistinction to other Earth sciences and “environment areas” appeared in the Daily Telegraph in the context of urban planning.
Authoritative etymology considers the proper debut of the new “environment” to be these passages from K. Mellanby’s Pesticides and Pollution (1967):
“Perhaps the most obvious way man has contaminated his environment is by polluting the air with smoke”
“...pesticides...have recently been shown to constitute an important contribution to environmental pollution”. (17)
By 1969 “environment” meant: the total natural world in which people, plants and animals live. More importantly, by definition the “environment” was at risk from harmful influences of industrialized societies. The new “environment” was given new synonyms: the global ecosystem, the biosphere, the ecosphere, the realm of non-human life.
The new “environmentalism” was born with a full set of principles. “Environmentalists” were members of political groups working to prevent the perceived damaging effects of industrialized societies. The Environmentalist was by definition someone valuing preservation over development. Environmentalists opposed both capitalist and socialist industrialization. Regarding industrial projects in the hinterland, Environmentalists were uniformly anti-development, pro-wilderness, and willing to sacrifice jobs. Environmentalists were crusading anti-pollutionaries agitated into activism by the imperceptible damage unseen greed was reportedly inflicting on the atmosphere. Environmentalists believed world population growth and technological development threatened the world’s life-sustaining ecosystems. Thus, the mythology of planetary imperilment was placed at the centre of the mantel of the Western neo-aristocratic cultural campaign.
modern environmentalism from 1966 to 1999
The first country to anoint the word “environment” was Japan through the passage of its Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control in 1967. The UK passed a raft of environmentalist legislation in 1968 but did not use the “e” word, preferring to name it the Countryside Act. However “environment” was the banner word for the American wing of the movement beginning in 1969 with the National Environmental Policy Act which required an “environmental impact statement” for any “major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” This act also established the Citizens Council on Environmental Quality to coordinate federal activities and to make sure no federal agencies proceeded on projects while environmental impact statements were pending. Larry Rockefeller was named Council Chair.
The larger Environmentalist campaigns focussed on inherently transnational issues: food and resource scarcity, climactic changes, and technological developments relating to the oceans, atmosphere, and outer space. In 1967, in a much publicized address to the UN General Assembly, the Maltese ambassador complained the oceans and their riches, which were “the common heritage of mankind”, were about to be plundered by new technologies giving industry access to the seabed. He said the Third World and the land-locked states were sure to lose out in this scramble for wealth. (18)
Echoing this was Garrett Hardin’s widely circulated “tragedy of the commons” thesis. According to Hardin, technological advances were leading to the destruction of “the commons” (oceans and atmosphere) on a hitherto unimagined scale. The problem, to Hardin, was High Seas Laws were based on liberal 17th century Dutch jurisprudence that promoted the right of innocent passage to all ships on the ocean and limited any state’s maritime jurisdiction to no greater distance than their coastal guns could shoot. The High Seas were intended to be a free for all. Hardin argued this had to change and voluntary restraint would not work; the oceans had to be subjected to rigid control by an international regime. (19)
Circa 1968 three Environmentalist powerhouses were assembled: the Club of Rome, the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) and the Challenges to Modern Society group. The Club was a think-tank and propaganda organ connected to the Fascist-linked Agnelli and Grimaldi dynasties and the Dutch and Belgian Royal Houses. The Club was a private group using obscure rhetoric in its press releases bemoaning a “civilization malaise” and a “new problematique”. The EDF was to coordinate a campaign of legal actions across the US to establish an embryonic common law structure other environmentalist NGOs could use to sue for more broadly defined “environmental rights”.
In late 1968, top Western military officers instructed North Atlantic Treaty Organization staff at their Brussels Headquarters to form an internal NATO group called “Challenges to Modern Society”. CMS’s mission was to facilitate the growth of environmentalism through funding academic research into specified Environmentalist topics and by serving as an information clearinghouse for the Environmentalist social movement. Environmentalism in Western Europe was wrapped in issues like nuclear arms and missile positioning; issues dear to NATO. The emergence of Western-style environmentalist groups in Eastern Europe dates to the early post-1968 period. (20) (The full relationship between Western intelligence agencies and East European and African environmentalist groups remains an intriguing mystery.)
For over a century this social movement had been aware that their influence on policy varied in direct proportion to the amount of credible scientific evidence they could accumulate. By the early 1970s Environmentalist NGOs, often with government support, amassed a formidable body of data about chemical and nuclear waste, deforestation, acidic rain, soil erosion, and pollution. Alarmist spins on this information were the propaganda for an unprecedented campaign of protest actions, mass re-education, movement-directed ‘community activism’ in addition to the regular lobbying of policy makers and political representatives.
As part of the social movement’s efforts to maintain a scientific veneer, the word “ecology” re-gained currency in 1970 as a complimentary word to “environmentalism”. The words were used almost synonymously, with ecology carrying a more scientific connotation. The term “conservationist” remained in use but was eschewed by US Democratic Party-types who did not like its “conservative” connotations.
(The word “ecology” was coined by German writer Ernst Haeckel in 1866. “Ecology” was his effort to stake out a new academic discipline in the crowded field between Geography and Biology; focussing on how organisms interact with their environments. As with Geopolitiks, Haeckel’s Ecology was ‘Nazi’ metaphor. Haeckel was a member of the Pan-Germanic Nationalist Society and the Thule Society. The latter society was a multi-chapter aristocratic cult promoting a mystical racism. Haeckel was a frothing anti-Semite. He argued Germans were forest-evolved while Jews were from a desert ecosystem, hence an invasive species to Europe. He argued German soil was made of decomposed German sewage, German corpses and German-bred crops and livestock; in other words German blood and soil were chemically united in a single “ecosystem”. In the 1920s the Thule Society took to the streets forming a political party appealing to lower class Germans. To lead the party they chose a young Adolf Hitler.) (21)
In private, President Nixon held environmentalism in contempt. In public, and in practice, he cooperated closely with this social movement to avoid confronting the Northeastern “white shoe boys” who had a fifth column in Congress called the Environmental Study Conference. Nixon ushered in the Environmental Protection Agency. He created 642 parks. On April 22, 1970, he played Diva on “Earth Day” – a cross-country, government-financed day of free teach-ins and publicity stunts attended by 20 million Americans.
After Earth Day “Environment Ministries” sprang up at the state, provincial, and local level across the English-speaking world and innumerable environmentalist laws and regulations were passed. These laws increased state power, particularly of federal governments, which used enviro-legislation to move into areas previously considered local, state, or provincial jurisdiction.
Between 1968 and 1972, a great green flood of enviro-propaganda inundated the peoples of the industrialized West. Hundreds of pulp non-fiction books were churned out. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich’s apocalyptic The Population Bomb, produced and hyped by the Sierra Club, sold millions. The whopper was the Club of Rome’s doomsday tract Limits to Growth which received, hitherto, the most widely publicized book release in history. The text was mandatory reading in many state educational institutions and, being a critically acclaimed “must read”, sold millions on the private market as well. None of Limits to Growth’s predictions came true. It was a cynical, premeditated book of Big Lies.
The cultural campaign was paralleled by top-level international lobbying. In Ransar, Iran, in 1971, 34 countries signed the Convention on Wetlands with each agreeing to take at least one major wetland area out of development plans. The Convention’s stated goal was “ecological equilibrium”. Also in 1971 crucial meetings were held in Fournex, Switzerland preparing the agenda for the upcoming UN World Environment Conference in Stockholm.
Stockholm was a breakthrough in the legitimization of environmentalist rhetoric and policy. Its biggest achievement was the creation of the United Nations Environment Program, even though the UNEP organization was not given real policing powers. (The entire Stockholm Action Plan was non-binding.) The UNEP was to act as a “catalyst” within the UN family of bureaucracies with a goal of turning each UN bureaucracy into an Environmentalist one. At Stockholm, Environmentalists identified the principle obstacle to the signing of more binding agreements as being Third World industrial aspiration. Consequently, after Stockholm, Environmentalists began subtly weaning the concept of “development” away from the concept of “industrialization” in the relevant languages of the world.
Stockholm’s momentum hastened the movement’s advance. Two months after Stockholm, the European Community (EC) declared economic development must be balanced with the need to protect the environment. 1972/3 saw the signing of: the Convention on the Prevention of Pollution by Dumping; the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species; and the passage of the US Federal Water Pollution Control Act (wherein the US Federal Government assumed responsibility for regulating discharges into all navigable rivers in the country). Within a year of Stockholm, the Rockefeller brothers founded the enviro-orientated Trilateral Commission, to hold private conferences of Japanese, European, and Northeastern intellectual and economic leaders. (22)
By 1973 three big changes had occurred in the international Environmentalist movement. Firstly, as evidenced by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the EC’s 1973 Environmental Action Programme, the Continental European wing of the movement had assumed the initiative within the movement from the English-American wing. Secondly, 1973 marks the period when environmentalist Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) funded by philanthropists, governments, and the UNEP began to dominate the overall movement. Lastly, from 1972 to 1974 there was an intense, and thoroughly dishonest, media campaign alleging critical depletions of global hydrocarbon deposits. Environmentalists used this campaign to argue for the phasing out of “fossil fuels”; a primary goal of the movement ever since.
UNEP’s first victory was the 1975 Mediterranean Action Plan wherein states bordering the Mediterranean agreed to harmonize maritime environmental legislation. Their second victory was the 1979 Convention of Long-Range Trans-boundary Air Pollution signed by 35 states. Soon signings of international treaties covering waste disposal, potential accidents, and endangered species were commonplace. To ease their acceptance, the Environmentalists designed flexible treaties. Enforcing compliance was a long-term goal but this social movement prides itself on its long-term mentality.
On the American legal front, 1976 handed another triumph to environmentalism in National Audubon Society vs. Superior Court where the California Supreme Court dramatically limited the City of Los Angeles’s access to water from a bird-friendly lake in eastern California. But the US enviro-legal war was just beginning. The Federal Endangered Species Act would generate many lawsuits. By the late 1970s, all major business and government plans provided detailed and costly written considerations on the impact their proposal might have on the atmosphere and water supply.
At this time “Green” Parties became active in Holland, Belgium, and Sweden. Most Green Parties started as electoral “lists” in local and regional elections. In Italy and Sweden, existing parties adopted Green platforms. Some early European Green Parties came out of the socially conservative agricultural milieu. They had conventional party structures and followed single-issue strategies. These parties were overshadowed by urban Greens influenced by the “New Left” and the trendy late-1960s protest scene. These Green Parties tended to have non-conventional party structures and multi-issue platforms.
Environmentalist propaganda diversified. A legion of enviro-gurus, each unquestioningly accepting the myth of planetary imperilment as their basic premise, raised mass followings with well-publicized diatribes. One mass following fell in behind American ecologist Barry Commoner and German economist Ernst Schumacher. They promoted small-scale pre-industrial technology and a return to living in smaller settlements. They promoted “green consumerism”, shucking organic food and recyclable containers while condemning plastic products and industrial fertilizers. They advocated Wind and Solar generated electrical power to reduce hydrocarbon dependency. Their motto was “think global act local”. Commoner was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1970.
Another school, the “social ecologists” followed Professor Murray Bookchin. He linked the causes of perceived “environmental degradation” to perceived injustices in human hierarchy. Social ecologists used “environmental degradation” mythology as a fulcrum to lever people over to an old left-anarchist utopianism. Related to the Bookchinites were the “eco-feminists” who believed the “environmental crisis” was rooted in patriarchy. Eco-feminism evolved in a highly spiritualist and cultish direction. Further out were the “deep ecologist” followers of Arne Naess (Norway) and Bill Devall (US) who argued preventing “ecological catastrophe” demanded a mass conversion to a spiritual relationship to non-human nature. Their “bio-centrism” was anti-humanitarian. They opposed famine relief, medical aid, and sanctuary for refugees.
In spite of their extreme rhetoric, the Deep Ecologist ideal was the same as Schumacher’s and Bookchin’s: a no-growth, fossil-fuel-free economy of medieval handicraft production situated in towns self-sufficiently integrated into their regional ecosystems. This localism appears to be a far cry from the high-altitude environmentalism of Robert Heilbroner’s An Inquiry into the Human Prospect Human Survival (1974) which, to save the planet, called for a world government to impose widespread curtailments of freedom. However, both viewpoints seek to replace the nation-state with an eco-state.
The old spiritual side of the movement was re-articulated in the 1970s. Environmentalists invariably spoke of protecting a mysterious, unscientific ecological balance. This supernatural balance, unknown to history, was suddenly central to human survival. Enviro-spiritualists inexhaustibly eulogized sacred “Nature”, imbuing it with intrinsic, ultra-human moral value. Within the movement, wilderness excursions were a mandatory cleansing rite. The decade closed with the release of James Lovelock’s Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth: a New Age religious tract, wrapped in a pseudo-scientific robes, fluffing up the lame, century-old metaphor of the Earth as a giant protozoon life-form sickened by industry.
Another spiritualistic campaign got off to a galloping start in 1977 with release of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. Singer piggy-backed on vogue Environmental law rationales for expanding “rights” to include Nature as well as humans. His writings dovetailed pop eco-babble about humanity’s interconnectedness to Nature. He lionized the “animal rights” social movement.
In the late 1970s came the first intellectual “backlash”, or counter-movement, to the Environmentalists. Some sharp criticism was hurled from the old guard within the movement itself. In 1978 George Reiger, Field and Stream editor (America’s oldest conservation journal), wrote a New York Times opinion piece criticizing new anti-hunting and anti-forestry groups and etching a furrow between conservationists and the: “ultra-preservationists, radical environmentalists, unrealistic extremist residents of the twilight zone.”(23) In 1977 the NAACP rejected “the notion of energy shortages and ever-diminishing supply”, arguing for prosperity through supply expansion. (24) In 1979 Ronald Reagan accused Environmentalists of being an influential elitist clique undermining US prosperity; to quote:
“the limits-to-growth people who are so influential in the Carter Administration are telling us, in effect, that the American economic pie is shrinking, that we all have to settle for a smaller slice...the best way...is for government to get out of the way while the rest of us make a bigger pie so that everyone can have a bigger slice.” (emphasis added)
In 1980 the US government cut the ribbon on the “superfund” – a massive treasure accumulated through a punitive tax on industry and dedicated to funding an expensive, bureaucratic, and litigious process of sanitizing former industrial sites of dubious hazardousness. In the same year the US agreed with Canada to monitor cross border pollution drift. On the other hand, in 1980 the US government and other leading industrial states refused to sign the radical 3rd UN Ocean Treaty (the UN collected 120 signatures.)
In Europe 1980 is remembered as the formal coming together of what was to become the most successful of the Green Parties – the German. Like all German environmental groups, “Die Grunen” swelled in popularity in the early 1980s during a national media blitz alleging German forests were dying from an invisible “acid rain”. The hysteria climaxed in 1983 when the West German government announced a ten-year plan to implement new coal emissions technology and pressure other European states to follow. By 1983 Die Grunen was polling 5.6%.
In 1983 the EC’s 3rd Environment Action Plan created an overlapping buzz with the UN’s World Economic Commission (leading to the Brundtland Report). The Commission popularized the phrase “sustainable development” – officially defined as: the management of necessary change while preventing excessive erosion of the environment. The phrase “sustainable development” soon became a movement mantra.
In 1985 “acid rain” propaganda washed out a rival enviro-publicity campaign about “ozone holes” which quietly culminated in Vienna with the non-binding, but constituency-building, Convention on Ozone Layer Protection. Even the Reagan Administration entered an “acid rain” agreement with Canada and requested to talk to the Soviets about this pressing issue. In 1985 an “acid rain” protocol was signed by 19 European states and Canada; all agreeing to cut the alleged culprit, sulphur dioxide emissions, by 30%. Neither US nor UK signed. It took the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident to shift the focus away from “acid rain”.
The publication of Julian Simon’s The Resourceful Earth (1984) marked a watershed for the counter-movement to environmentalism. The book debunked the apocalyptic prophesies commonly trotted out by Environmentalists. It began a literary genre dedicated to exposing and opposing alarmist Environmentalist pseudo-science.
By the late 1980s Die Grunen was polling 9% and Green Parties had won parliamentary seats in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Switzerland. Green Parties were well served by “proportional representation” election rules and by public funding of minority-parties. During this period, Die Grunen was a partner in coalition governments with the Social Democrats in Hesse, Lower Saxony, and Berlin. In the 1989 European parliamentary elections, the British Green Party netted 15% of the British vote.
These urban Green Parties were dominated by a layer of University Professors often openly critical of liberalism and democracy. The bottom, and most numerous, layer of Green Party members consisted of the “not-seeking-conventional-employment-25-to-40-year-old” cohort concentrated around University campuses. Green Parties were more than electoral machines. They were hyper-active “catalysts of change” within their respective countries, agitating to put environmental concerns on the top of the policy debate. Many planks from Green Party platforms, after sanding and varnish, were nailed to the platforms of most mainstream European parties.
By the time the World Commission on Environment and Development released Our Common Future (1987) environmental issues were receiving saturation coverage by the print and broadcast media throughout the Western world. Environmentalism had penetrated all realms of political discourse. The situation had been redefined. “Think global act local” was a global cliché. Our Common Future re-worked the basic outlines of environmental legal strategy with a renewed emphasis on international treaties. Two major treaties followed: the Ozone Protection Protocol and the Convention on Trans-boundary Hazardous Waste Movement.
The Ozone treaty, the follow-up to Vienna, demonstrated the effectiveness of cross-pollinating environmentalist NGOs with scientific research organizations. The 1987 Ozone Protocol was a preliminary step to phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons; widely slandered as puncturers of the ozone layer. A total ban on CFCs was planned; but at a 1989 conference, attended by 110 states, it became clear India and China intended to use CFCs for their burgeoning refrigerator industries.
(Another mystery of the environmental movement revolves around its connection to big chemical companies like Du Pont who are interested in promoting new chemical products and practices and phasing out old. Larger firms can muscle out smaller firms by lobbying for environmental regulations requiring all firms to make large investments. As well, patent expirations can inspire creative strategies for re-capturing monopoly profits.)
In 1989 the EC deployed a formidable trade weapon: “the precautionary principle”. They banned importation of US hormone-fed beef on flimsy evidence plus the “precautionary principle” meaning: “if there is a strong suspicion that a certain activity may have environmentally harmful consequences, it is better to control that activity now rather than to wait for incontrovertible evidence.” (26) The operative words being: “suspicion” and “incontrovertible” – which present a low threshold of evidence for those accusing a product of being harmful.
The UNEP’s enviro-catalyzing role within the UN was evidenced in the World Bank’s Support for the Environment: Progress Report (1989). The Bank, a UN agency, outlined a strategy to “blur the lines between environmental activities and the rest of the Bank’s work – to make them one”. (27) 38% of WB loans had environmental components. Still the UNEP complained of problems stemming from different degrees of national priority given to these environmental commitments and of “a lack of an operational definition of sustainable development”. (28) In other words, government leaders were willing to sign papers and parrot phrases but, except for Europe, these gestures were rarely translated into tangible policy.
Nevertheless environmentalist ideology diffused over the globe. It was sponsored in the Soviet Bloc where Environmentalists played a key role in NATO-led regime change programs. In Africa, a lion’s share of the sub-Saharan part of the continent was converted to parkland: places where suspected local poachers got shot at from helicopter gunships but where European aristocrats hunted for free. Even during Bush Sr.’s Administration the American wing of the environmentalist movement continued to adapt, passing two “make-the-polluter-pay” laws mandating double-hull oil tankers and drip pads for waste containers. The coterminous Clean Air Act provided a variety of incentives and regulations to ease “acid rain”. Across the underdeveloped regions of South America and Asia, Environmentalists agitated for “women’s rights” (population control) and “indigenous rights” (undermining national sovereignty).
By 1992 “global warming” headlines appeared daily in major newspapers across Europe and the English-speaking world. This anti-hydrocarbon propaganda was the run-up to the “Rio Summit”. Rio was attended by: 180 heads of state, all major international news organizations, hundreds of multinational corporations, and thousands of environmentalist NGOs. Rio produced the Framework Convention on Climate Change which, while non-binding, extended profound legitimacy to the “global warming” scare.
From Rio sailed an armada of agreements including the “Rio Declaration” – an international charter of eco-rights. The pen-happy summiteers signed: Agenda 21; the Convention on Biological Diversity; and a Statement of Principles on the Management, Conservation, and Sustainable Development of all types of Forests. The Rio Summit’s World Development Report was a further effort at deconstructing and redefining the concept “development” away from its conventional usage.
By 1993 over 140 multilateral environmental treaties had been concluded and the entire UN system was accommodating the UNEP. A few treaties (concerning marine pollution, acid rain, and the ozone hole) were binding, but most were not, and enviro-treaties did not have the attention to detail found in trade and arms treaties. In the back-rooms it was understood that planetary-level feed-backs caused great uncertainty about The Perils, with real problems possibly being a concern for future generations, not the present. This “insensitivity” persistently blunted national policy responses. Treaty acceptance and compliance was further hindered as the debate clarified the unevenness in how costs and benefits of eco-policies would be distributed among participating countries. But the movement still coveted these treaties because they “built constituency” necessary for the long march.
An example of this process was the 1995 World Conference on Sustainable Tourism which encouraged governments to draft laws promoting the dual goals of economic development through tourism and protection of the environment. This generated the 1997 Declaration on Sustainable Tourism whereby 27 Asia-Pacific countries committed themselves to ecological practices and to fund a heightened awareness of eco-ethics. Although these laws were soft, the publicity surrounding this process, coupled with the subsequent policy changes in each country, helped found and legitimize the eco-tourism industry – now thousands of businesses strong. Thus, partially through the treaty process the movement enhanced its economic base and attracted more government resources.
A much larger example of “built constituency” is the alternative energy industry – the wind, solar and hydrogen companies that have blossomed in state-subsidized green-houses. Another example of “built constituency” is the organic farming industry - now tens of thousands of businesses strong.
In 1995 UNEP spawn the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, declared: “the balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on global climate” This “fact” was trumpeted around the world and formed the scientific basis for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol imposing binding CO2 emissions targets. The US, Kyoto’s intended victim, refused to ratify.
In the mid-1990s Germany added an eco-clause to its constitution committing the government to preserve for “future generations the natural foundations of life”. By then the Mayors of Rome and Dublin were from Green Parties and the European Parliament had seated Greens from Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and France. In 1998 Die Grunen formed the national government in coalition with the Social Democrats, their leader becoming Foreign Minister.
Conversely, during this period Green Parties began to stagnate, with few breaking the 10% popular vote barrier. As Green Parties played the game of coalition and compromise, they lost support of radical youth and rural conservatives. Greens had always been dependant on media and state support, never really developing mass memberships (Die Grunen membership peaked at 30,000). The incorporation of Eastern Germany into the FRG did not help Die Grunen. Thus, some within Europe’s enviro-cratic elite began suggesting Green Parties were redundant because of the adoption of green platforms by the mainstream parties and because the European regulatory battle was all but over.
In 1998, 40 European countries signed the Aarhus Convention requiring each country to: increase the environmentalist component of state educational curricula, increase public access to environmentalist information, and to facilitate greater public involvement in all government decisions affecting the environment. (29) Two years later the EU declared the “precautionary principle” to be “a full fledged and general principle of international law.”(30)
By law, in Europe and the USA, environmental impact investigations were based on the “public participation principle”, meaning governments had to solicit and fund input from environmentalist NGOs regarding the approval of industrial projects. The “public participation principle” was a gift to environmentalist NGOs skilled at using rent-a-mobs whipping up local hysteria and pressuring decision-makers. This social dredging complemented environmentalism’s Orwellian “grassroots democracy” motif.
By 1999 the EU required comprehensive environmental impact statements prior to the construction or upgrade of any power station, oil refinery, waste dump, et cetera. Lesser projects faced a gauntlet of increasingly codified national, state, and municipal environmental regulation. A bureaucratic elite specializing in byzantine legal and technical documents sat in judgement of what were acceptable thresholds of potential environmental impact. Eco-inquisitors could kill detailed proposals if they were deemed inferior to hypothetical alternative projects. The implementation of these enviro-regulations busied many bureaucracies and law firms.
The second term of Clinton-Gore was arguably the most movement-friendly administration in US history. Their crimes are a litany: the declaring of the Escalante coal fields to be an untouchable “antiquity”; the signing of the Kyoto Protocol; the breaching of Northwestern damns; the promotion of a road-less wilderness; the creation of more parks; the blocking of Alaskan development, and so on.
By the end of the century, the international environmental movement had evolved into a quadruped. One leg was the original community of philanthropists and aristocrats. Another leg consisted of scores of thousands of government workers employed both in Environment Ministries (including Park/Forest/Fish Services, et cetera.) and in the Ecology/Environmental Science departments of state-run Universities. The third leg was the hundreds of thousands employees of the innumerable Environmentalist NGOs. The fourth leg was the movement’s built constituency of over 100,000 businesses engaged in: alternative energy, environmental legal services, organic farming, eco-tourism, recycling, and so on.
Policy making regarding land use and industrial regulation continued to slip away from nation-states toward: the EU, the UN, and tens of thousands of philanthropist-controlled Environmentalist NGOs. Environmental considerations, or at least lip service thereto, were obligatory in the highest realms of business decision-making. The movement’s stated 21st century frontiers were: the cooptation of established religions, the backing of indigenous land claims within colonial countries, and the suppression of the hydrocarbon industry.
old geography and new environmentalism
The overarching irony is that discredited 19th century French environmentalism (geographical determinism) provides such a fine tool-kit of directives and concepts useful toward understanding the modern Environmentalist social movement. To illustrate this, let’s compare two geographical areas and the reception given to the modern Environmentalists in each. The boundaries of the first area are equivalent to the boundaries of former West Germany. The second area is, broadly-speaking, the North American Midwest meaning: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and the Canadian Prairie provinces.
The two areas have much in common. Both have populations in the 50 to 60 million range. Both are world leaders in terms of: material standards of living, use of modern technology, life expectancy, and adult literacy. Ethnically, both have mixed populations with the overwhelming majority being of West European stock. Both areas are generally “Christian” with the majority being Protestant. Their official languages are closely related.
But there is a big difference regarding attitudes toward modern environmentalism. In many cities of “western Germany” the Green Party scores up to 20% of the vote and their members secure top positions in all levels of government. Die Grunen achieves, in spite of rival radical “green” political parties gnawing at their base and establishment parties stealing their platform. In “western Germany” over 10% of adults belong to Environmentalist NGOs. Germany boasts the most stringent enviro-regulations in the world and the German government is conducting a symphony of support for the UNEP’s climate change hoax to phase out “fossil fuels”.
In the North American “Midwest”, Green Parties barely exist. If they run in elections they lose their deposits. They have never held office and no one forms coalitions with them. Membership in “environmentalist” organizations is maybe 1% of the adult population and much of that is single memberships or magazine subscriptions. Environmentalist regulations and “education” is imposed on the “Midwest” by federal governments generating considerable local resentment. Midwestern politicians dread climate change policies.
In short, the modern Environmentalist social movement is 20 times larger in “western Germany” than in the ‘Midwest’. Old school Geographers would look to the land to explain this difference.
For many years Environmentalists have vehemently opposed the hydrocarbon fuel industry. As with much of Europe, “western Germany” is uniquely cursed with an absence of hydrocarbon deposits. They have a few largish coal deposits that they have been gouging for centuries but negligible oil and gas production. Petro-chemicals and petroleum fuels are their major import. Machinery is their major export, and they do a brisk business selling products favoured by Environmentalist regulation like wind turbines and hybrid cars.
The “Midwest” has mind-boggling hydrocarbon deposits. Conventional oil wells from Texas to Alberta generate over 1.5 million barrels a day. Non-conventional oil reserves of Alberta alone exceed the oil reserves of Iraq. The “Midwest” has probably the world’s largest deposits of coal. Conventional natural gas deposits are among the world’s largest, and the developing practice of extracting coal-bed methane promises to multiply this reserve.
The Kyoto Protocols, or other such anti-hydrocarbon program, would devastate the “Midwest” because its three principal exports are hydrocarbon fuels, petro-chemicals, and food products derived from hydrocarbon-dependant farming operations. On the other hand, “western Germany”, if Kyoto were implemented, would see its principal fuel import bill drop while its exports of alternative energy machinery would rise. Their politics are an expression their geography.
Another geographical aspect affecting political consciousness is the amount of space per person. The entire Federal Republic of Germany, with a population of 82.5 million, has a land mass of 357,021 square kilometres. Montana, a mid-sized “Midwest” jurisdiction, has a land mass of 380,838 square kilometres and a population of 950,000. (31) This radically different geographical environment lends itself to different opinions about land scarcity and soil contamination.
There is also the cultural landscape. German environmentalism is concentrated in old University towns – a world of semi-employed students cycling down winding streets betwixt stands of medieval architecture. This cultural landscape is coupled with a University curriculum heavy in theology, romantic literature, human ecology, ethno-botany, geo-politiks, and conservation biology – the optimal environment for environmentalism.
The people of the Midwest could forgive Europeans for pursuing a self-serving global economic order if not for all the fibbing: for the telling of tall tales about the climate; for spending an estimated $50 billion dollars brainwashing the masses into believing their superstitious tripe about the weather. Even the lying might be forgivable if it would ever stop.
In the USA one third of the land is owned by the federal government. US states and cities also have inventories of parks. This land includes some of the most scenic, energy rich, fertile areas on the continent. A vastly larger area of land is owned by Canadian federal and provincial governments and this land is a cornucopia of fresh water, minerals, forests, and hydrocarbons. North America is a near-empty, still-developing, continent.
The Great Spectre haunting Europe is that the industrial heartland of North America will explode North and West in a manner similar to the expansions occurring during the Washington and Lincoln eras. This would accelerate Europe’s relative economic decline and lure away millions more European farmers and technicians. Binding the North American economy to its current land base is a primary European foreign policy objective.
The Fascist social movement was the fighting arm of the European land-owning community. Fascists were categorically hostile to the “free enterprise” model of capitalism. While maintaining support from established Churches, Fascists promoted subcultures involved in paganism, occultism, nature worship, soil worship, organic farming, and tree-hugging. Fascists drew particular propaganda value from pseudo-scientific claims that industry was destroying Earth’s “ecology”. Fascists deployed a cynical propaganda strategy frequently using fabricated information. The Environmentalist social movement is the fighting arm of the European and US Northeastern land-owning community. Environmentalists are hostile to the “free enterprise” model....
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