Markham's Environmental Organizations in Modern Germany
By William Walter Kay
Professor Markham’s nine-year project, Environmental Organizations in Modern Germany, is another inside job. Markham thanks Professor Wiesenthal for opening doors to the German environmental movement and to the Green Party. He also thanks: two officials from the German Nature Protection League, the former President of the German League for Environment and Nature Protection, and the faculty at Wageningen University’s Environmental Policy Group. While writing this book Markham was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service and the Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research. He spent weeks at Neubrandenburg’s Study Archive for Environmental History and Bonn’s Federal Nature Protection Library. He interviewed two dozen German enviro-organization leaders and he watched a lot of German TV. As ever with enviro-scholars, Professor Markham knoweth not what he hath wrought.
Germany is driving the Climate Change campaign.
Many major international enviro-organizations (Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Birdlife International, etc.) are controlled by their German chapters.
Several militant leaders of Germany’s confrontational early-1980s environmentalist protests were, a decade later, running government ministries.
While Germany’s big enviro-organizations masquerade as citizens’ crusades, they are in fact top-down bureaucracies full of cynical well-paid careerists who work in tandem with state and corporate elites.
Only 40 (forty) persons within Greenpeace-Germany’s half million members may vote for the board of directors. WWF-Germany has a self-perpetuating board and zero internal democracy.
The League for Homeland and Environment, League for Nature Protection, and League for Environment and Nature Protection have intertwined histories, memberships, and goals. They were reactionaries before, and raving Nazis during, the Third Reich. Collectively they now have one million supporters spread over 4,000 local clubs. These are “mainstream” German enviro-organizations.
Although it came as a revelation to Professor Markham, beneath the surface of Germany’s 9,000 “mainstream” enviro-organizations lurks a huge sub-movement that can only be described as Neo-Nazi. Markham concludes this sub-movement retains the potential to take over the entire movement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
German Environmentalism 1833-2007
Southern German Enviro-Organizations
Friends of Nature
German Nature Protection Ring
Cold War Environmentalism
The Old Right
Incorporated German enviro-organizations are vereins (societies) or stiftungs (foundations). To attain tax privileges vereins and stiftungs must be certified by the authorities who require certain accountabilities. Germany has 9,000 such enviro-organizations (2001). 5,000 are local branches of national organizations. The remainder are mainly single-purpose “niche players” with little political influence or media presence.
A few single-purpose enviro-organizations are prominent: Association for the Protection of the North Sea Coast, German Transportation Club, German Landcare Association, Nature Protection Association of Lower Saxony and the 20,000-member state-funded German Forest Protection Association.
Most small enviro-organizations maintain local nature reserves and eschew confrontation in favour of quiet lobbying. Small but confrontational Community Interest groups have not played a major role in the movement since the 1980s.
The movement also includes research facilities: Institute for Applied Ecology; Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy; Institute for Energy and Environmental Research; Independent Institute for Environment Questions in East Germany; etc. The Eco-Institute is a hybrid enviro-organization/commercial research institute.
Also in the movement are associations of hunters, anglers, and hikers (notably the Alpine Association) that have environmental protection as a secondary goal.
Executives of enviro-organizations seek money, legitimacy, and influence in order to persuade volunteers, pay staff, and maintain offices. Enviro-executives confront dilemmas: a) centralization versus democracy; b) cooperation versus competition with fellow enviro-organizations; c) specialized versus broad goals; d) professionals versus volunteers; e) passive members versus committed activists; and f) cooperation versus confrontation with government and business.
Three million Germans donate to enviro-organizations. The coveted cohort are middle-aged, middle-class government employees. Notably absent are the working class, corporate managers, and business owners. Religiosity correlates with environmental donation. Catholic and Lutheran churches have long advocated environmentalism. Non-Christian environmentalists often hold New Age beliefs.
German private foundations remain underdeveloped compared to the US where foundations support many enviro-organizations. German public funds make up some of the difference. The Federal Government Environmental Foundation, Federal Environmental Office, Federal Office for Nature Protection, and foundations administered by state-funded political parties donate to enviro-organizations. The Federal Government Environmental Foundation disbursed 42 million euros in 2005. Additionally, judges allocate revenues from fines to enviro-organizations and Lander governments pay enviro-organizations to prepare statements on development proposals.
Most enviro-organizations have paid staff assisted by volunteers (often students). While volunteers constitute a small portion of the support base, they do a lot of work, especially at the local level. 25% of enviro-volunteers complain of being overburdened. The number of paid employees at enviro-organizations increased 70% between 1988 and 1997. Professionalization is caused by: a) increasing legal and regulatory complexity; b) organizational growth; and c) waning volunteerism.
Enviro-professionals view their current jobs as steps along career paths that will take them from one enviro-organization to another or to jobs in government enviro-agencies. (In 1990 Greenpeace-Germany’s co-founder became Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister.) Several enviro-fundraisers previously raised money for rival enviro-organizations; most are members of the German Fundraising Association.
Four enviro-organizations tower over the rest: WWF-Germany, Greenpeace-Germany (GP-G), German League for Environment and Nature Protection (NABU), and German Nature Protection League (BUND). They are among Germany’s top fundraisers. They enjoy more public trust than any other actors in the environmental arena. They boast of their hundreds of thousands of supporters when they lobby politicians. Their combined membership is vastly larger than any political party.
While they masquerade as citizen crusades, the Big Four are really fundraising machines forever fine-tuning their sales pitches to keep donations flowing. They employ managers, fundraisers, scientists, lawyers, and public relations experts. They conceal the fact that they are bureaucracies of well-paid careerists beneath populist, democratic veneers. These are not grassroots activist groups but “astro-turf” enterprises with illusions of mass support. 95% of their supporters merely pay minimal dues and thumb through the group’s magazine.
The Big Four collect the bulk of their funds in small donations. They hire agencies to do mail-outs, and they carefully monitor the cost of each mail-out and how much money it brings in. Rates of return on mail-outs to non-members can be as low as 1% to 2%. (Door-to-door solicitation is equally cost ineffective.) The Big Four traffic in lists of persons who have previously donated to enviro-organizations. They send letters to regular donors several times a year, usually using a pretext like offering an opportunity to sign a petition. They target supporters who might include them in their wills. They publicize the tax-deductibility of all donations. They hawk logo-laden merchandise.
Each of the Big Four claims to spend 5% of their budget soliciting new members, but all tend to obscure and minimize this item. All four hire agencies to recruit members. BUND, NABU, and WWF rely on Wesser Job-Haus, a Stuttgart-based firm whose employees staff public info-stands and canvas door-to-door. These info-stands, ubiquitous in Berlin, are staffed by attractive, articulate young people whom Wesser Job-Haus pays up to 2,000 euros a month.
All four are officially non-partisan and attempt to influence whatever party is in power while trying not to alienate the other major parties. Few enviro-organizations campaign for the Green Party. As these organizations have members in rival parties, endorsing the Greens would have repercussions. Also, as German election campaigns are state-funded, the Greens do not need financial support. Nevertheless, when enviro-organizations compare party platforms, the Greens come out on top.
The Big Four participate in hearings, commissions, and planning processes at all levels of government. They carefully track legislation regarding agriculture, electricity, nature protection, and waste disposal. WWF, NABU, and BUND receive government funds for land purchases and public education.
The Big Four market omnibus programs but do not have non-environmental goals. They pump out anti-corporate propaganda but have close ties with big corporations. Their websites typically devote 2% of their lines to predicting ecological catastrophe and 1% to suggesting societal restructuring.
Convergence of method mirrors a near coalescence into one organization. A survey of NABU members showed: 34% also belonged to Greenpeace, 22% belonged to BUND, and 18% to WWF. 60% of BUND members donate to other enviro-organizations.
Executives of the Big Four periodically sit down together to strategize. BUND, NABU, and WWF cooperate on an ad hoc basis. They leave the spectacular actions to GP-G and focus on lobbying and milder actions. There is a tacit agreement that BUND will take more militant stands than NABU or WWF.
In 2004 the Big Four issued a joint statement calling for public lands in former East Germany to be turned into parks. In the same year they issued a joint press release criticizing the SPD/Green government’s failure to fulfill promises. They joined hands again to promote a North-Westphalia lottery that raises money for enviro-projects. All four protested the resumption of nuclear waste shipments. All are against globalization and nuclear power and for high fuel taxes and sustainable development.
The main obstacle to closer cooperation is fear of identity loss. Distinguishing one’s brand in the media is vital for fundraising and, to quote one enviro-executive, “We don’t cooperate on fundraising.”
The overall movement is divided by windmills, because many environmentalists view wind-power as the energy saviour while others complain turbines disfigure landscapes and kill birds. Hunting is another perennial source of discord. There is also a choir of disenchanted remnants of the 1970s mass mobilization who accuse mainstream enviro-organizations of “selling out”.
German Environmentalism 1833-2007
German nature protection was a reaction to capitalism. As economic change disrupted established patterns of life, the aristocracy rallied endangered sectors in opposition.
Germany’s first protected area, the Drachenfels ruins, was announced in 1833. In the 1850s while poets and foresters decried deforestation, their colleagues fought to protect Berlin’s green spaces, the Harz Mountains and the Heathlands. Prussia passed a forest protection law in 1875. Regional bird protection laws date to the early 1800s, and a national law passed in 1888. A short-lived bird protection association was chartered in 1875; a national association hatched in 1899.
Late 19th century nature organizations fought railways, power lines, dams, river channelization, the conversion of forests to farmland, and the conversion of farmland to urban use. Despite their efforts, industrial cities sprawled and mechanized agriculture ploughed up the wilderness.
League for Homeland Protection, League for Bird Protection, Bavarian Committee for Nature Protection, People’s Alliance for Homeland Protection, League for Nature Protection, Association for the Protection of Alpine Plants, Berlin-Brandenburg Nature Protection Ring, Prussian Protection of Natural Monuments Office, Friends of Nature-Germany, Isar Valley Association, Nature Protection Park Association, etc. all date to 1899-1909.
Nature protectionism became a national concern when interest groups representing labour and business became national concerns. National nature protectionism matured alongside, and within, the early 20th century fascist movement.
Nature protection was in the jurisdiction of Lander, not Federal, governments. Hesse led the way with a provision for protecting natural monuments in 1902. Later in 1902 Prussia prohibited the defacing of scenic areas with billboards. In 1904 the Prussian government commissioned biologist Hugo Conwentz to report on the need to protect natural monuments. In 1906 Conwentz became Director of the new Prussian Office for the Protection of Natural Monuments whose authorizing legislation covered not just “monuments” but also endangered species and their habitats.
Conwentz launched an ambitious program of conferences, periodicals, school curriculum change, nature study trips, and inventories of natural monuments and endangered species. In each Prussian province he established nature committees comprised of government officials, museum directors, scientists, and teachers. After their 1912 effort to impose nature protection on private land failed, these committees confined themselves to persuasion. They won official designation for natural monuments and sensitive habitats but failed to block agricultural rationalization. Other Lander governments followed Prussia’s example.
The 1919 Weimar Constitution required landowners be compensated for property turned into nature preserves. This made preserves prohibitively expensive. Weimar-era nature laws were not uniform and none funded land purchases.
Weimar Germany witnessed a mushrooming of hiking clubs, notably Friends of Nature and the hippy-esque Wandering Birds. Both romanticized nature. Within this milieu were vegetarians, nudists, natural healers, theosophists, anthroposophists, and Nazis. The latter mystified nature into the elaborate “blood and soil” ideology which held that a Volk’s vitality was rooted to their native land.
Nazis called for ending urbanization. They promoted organic farming and nature protection. Hitler, a vegetarian and an animal rights advocate, was influenced by agrarian romanticism, as were Himmler, Hess, and Darre. Nature protection received ample attention in the Nazi press. Before 1933 Nazi ideology attracted many nature protection advocates. After 1933 Nazi nature protection policies were enormously popular with nature protection organizations.
Many nature protection leaders joined the Nazi Party. For example, Walter Schoenichen, Director of the Prussian Nature Conservation Office, joined the Party in 1933. He connected preserving racial purity to preserving forests. He saw the Polish conquest as an opportunity to create parks and reduce German population density, once the Poles were removed.
One of Goring’s first official moves was to pass regulations needed to implement wildlife protection laws. Soon after, he sponsored an animal rights bill.
Before 1935 the Third Reich banned billboards, enlarged municipal parks, designated new nature protection areas, and launched reforestation and wetland rehabilitation programs. Restrictive hunting, forest, and homeland protection laws were also passed. In 1935 the Third Reich decreed a Federal law protecting any area deemed to have sufficient beauty, rarity, or scientific significance. This law: protected animals and plants, created industry-free zones, required consultation with nature protectionists, and authorized property seizure without compensation. The Nazis also appointed landscape architect Alwin Seifert to ensure the Autobahns fit organically into the environment.
After 1945 nature protection activism carried on in West Germany. Nazi nature protection officials, like Schoenichen, having escaped unscathed, struggled to preserve the Nazi legacy. Goring’s 1935 nature law, minus the preamble, remained in force for two decades.
The first post-war movement organization, the German Forest Protection Association, was founded in 1947 by foresters and civil servants. In 1951 the movement welcomed the Alliance for the Protection of Germany’s Waters. In 1952 a multi-party group of parliamentarians was founded to focus on environmental legislation. During this era the movement lost more battles than it won.
The parliamentary working group ushered in a 1957 Federal Water Management Law and a 1959 Federal Clean Air Maintenance Law. The latter blew in on a gale of publicity culminating in polls showing 66% of Germans craving stronger air pollution laws. Other environmental problems received widespread media coverage while a series of apocalyptic essays and novels crystallized worries about spiralling overproduction and overpopulation. Lander governments passed air pollution laws.
Anti-nuclear activism was instigated in the late-1950s by the World League for the Protection of Life and Fighting Alliance against Atomic Danger: a group founded by Austrian conservationist Gunther Schwab (author of the enviro-apocalyptic bestseller, Dancing with the Devil). The League, with its racist population control agenda, established 31 national chapters. The German chapter, led by the Nazi, Werner Haverbeck, attracted a huge following. Their connection to the ultra-right was little known.
The Social Democrat Party (SDP) distanced themselves from socialism in 1959. By 1961 leader Willy Brandt was calling for blue skies over the Ruhr.
The 1960s witnessed a second rash of apocalyptic bestsellers, notably Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich, The Plundering of a Planet by Herbert Gruhl, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. By the end of the decade, the phrase “environmental protection” eclipsed “nature protection.” While many nature protection organizations mutated into enviro-organizations, some such as Nature Protection Parks Association, German Forest Protection Association, and Isar Valley Association made few changes. Problems, as framed by late-1960s environmentalists, were: overpopulation, consumerism, pollution, resource exhaustion, farmland expansion (framed as wildlife habitat loss), and pesticides (especially DDT).
In Brandt’s Social Democrat-Free Democrat coalition (1969-75) both Chancellor Brandt and Interior Minister Genscher made the environment their signature issue. They pushed through a constitutional amendment expanding Federal authority over pollution, radiation, and waste disposal. A Federal Environmental Office was established within the Interior Ministry. An expert environmental panel was established, as was the first national park. They enthusiastically took part in European Nature Protection Year (1970). Their Working Group for Environmental Issues, founded 1971, created a forum where enviro-organizations could interface with government, industry, scientists, and consumer advocates.
1972 saw both the release of the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth and the holding of the United Nations environmental conference in Stockholm. In this year, the German coalition Ecology Group issued its Ecological Manifesto. Echoing the Club of Rome, the Manifesto criticized pro-growth economics and urged the movement to steer away from protecting species and places and toward tackling overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and consumerism. Dramatic increases in media coverage of environmental problems corresponded with dramatic increases in the percentage of Germans rating the environment as important. Christian Democrats (CDU) hearkened to the committed environmentalists in its ranks. Unanimity among the parties meant environmental issues were not debated in the 1972 or 1976 elections.
Chancellor Schmidt’s (SDP) administration (1975-82) passed laws regulating detergents, strengthened nature protection laws, and promoted comprehensive land-use planning. Nevertheless, Schmidt’s administration was sent reeling by the environmentalists’ aggressive use of administrative appeals, lawsuits, and protests. SDP-led unions staged counter-demonstrations.
Raging protests against nuclear plant construction dominated the news from 1975 to 1984. Protest villages occupied construction sites, sometimes stalling projects long enough for politicians to reconsider. Protests were organized by Community Initiatives (CIs), alliances of CIs, and student and church groups. Protesters were conservative farmers, shopkeepers, deep ecologists, and “counter-culturists”. (Prominent among the latter were campus-centred “new social movement” (NSM) activists who blended environmentalism, pacifism, and feminism. NSMers: opposed consumerism, presumed an apocalyptic environmentalism, favoured craft production, and were sceptical of science.) The radical Left initially showed little interest in anti-nuclear protesting and, arriving late, never led the protests. The government crushed Leftist-instigated protests.
Before Schmidt left office he re-opened channels of communication with environmentalists and launched several enviro-initiatives including legislation regulating chemical production. Budgets for clean-ups and nature protection were increased and German Nature Protection Ring (GNPR) was given a regular subsidy. Social Democrats gradually became anti-nuclear.
In 1980 motley crews contesting local elections in “green” slates were corralled into a national Green Party by Herbert Gruhl and the arch-conservative Action Group of Independent Germans. Gruhl argued that as ecology transcended “left” and “right” it should be the Party’s only platform.
Gruhl and company exited stage right when the Party was overwhelmed by an NSM faction whose variety of “leftism” was alien to the union movement, the Far Left, and the East Germans. The Party platform mixed environmentalism with women’s issues, ending compulsory military service, and greater inclusion of minorities. By winning over 5% of the vote in the 1983 election, the Greens entered the Bundestag and received massive government funding.
Kohl’s CDU-led coalition assumed power in the early 1980s amidst a media barrage about acid rain, “forest death”, ozone holes, and chemical spills. (Acid rain’s contribution to forest death was grossly exaggerated.) The Tageszeitung, a new national daily newspaper, led the barrage. Counter-cultural weekly newspapers with much environmental content popped up across Germany. These publications were joined by no fewer than 37 nationally circulated magazines devoted exclusively to environmental issues (combined circulation 4 million). Broadcast media followed this trend. Appeasing environmentalists thus became unavoidable. Kohl imposed the world’s most stringent air pollution regime, an ambitious recycling program, and increased environmental education in schools.
Coverage of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster brought the nuclear industry to a standstill. After 1986 a super ministry, the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety (MENPNS), partially populated by enviro-organization staff, absorbed the Federal Environmental Office.
Environmental and anti-nuclear protests declined in the late 1980s, spiked in 1993, then continued to decline. This tracks the waning of the counter-culture sub-movement; it was the twilight of the era when enviro-organizations could mobilize mass protest. Confrontational strategies lost their novelty. Environmentalists’ inability to call out the masses was evidenced by pathetic turnouts at rallies and by petition drives abandoned for lack of participation. Protests still occurred over oil tankers, nuclear power, genetically-modified organisms, and globalization but these were smaller and less confrontational.
There was a clear shift of media policy regarding enviro-issues in the early-1990s. Polls showed sharp declines in the percentage of Germans who considered environmental problems important. While environmentalists were infuriated as several Lander temporarily dissolved environment ministries and simplified enviro-regulations, the momentum behind institutionalizing environmentalism proved inexorable.
The Green Party split between Realists and Fundamentalists. After the Party failed to win 5% of the vote in the 1990 elections, the Fundamentalists abandoned ship and the Realists abandoned grassrootsy policies like term limits and leader rotations. After winning 7% in the 1998 election, the Greens became junior partner in Schroeder’s coalition where they took credit for an ecology tax on fuel, a nuclear power phase-out, and a revision of the nature protection law. The latter included more agricultural regulations, more parks, and more participation of enviro-organizations in decision-making. After the 2001 mad cow scare, the Agriculture Ministry was placed within a Ministry of Consumer Protection and Agriculture and placed under the command of a Green stalwart.
The mass-media-facilitated mass mobilization ended because it succeeded – environmentalism had become institutionalized. By the mid-1990s environmentalism was incorporated into every aspect of German life. All parties were green. A colossal corpus of environmental laws and regulations was being enforced by an array of government and quasi-government agencies. Every major institution in government, media, industry, and labour addressed environmental problems and publicized their efforts.
Environmental jurisdiction is shared between the Federal and Lander governments. (Sewage and garbage disposal are delegated to municipalities.) MENPNS, which is but one of several Federal ministries with environmental departments, is itself a composite of several sub-ministries: Federal Environment Office, Federal Office for Nature Protection, etc. There are innumerable lesser Federal enviro-agencies. Lander environmental ministries are relatively larger than Federal ones. A Council of Environmental Ministers (Lander and Federal) meets biannually with enviro-organizations.
German law contains elaborate vetting procedures for any development proposal that may damage the environment. Since 1976 certified organizations have been entitled to participate in these processes. Major enviro-organizations are certified, as are associations of hunters, horseback riders, etc. A 2002 legislative revision gave enviro-organizations even more input.
Manufacturing remains prominent in the German economy, especially steel, automobiles, and chemicals. Firms in these industries historically resisted environmental regulations, preferring voluntary standards. In the late-1970s they began to realize that given proper regulations, money could be made in environmental clean-up technology and in production techniques requiring fewer materials. Kohl’s administration worked out agreements with industry to develop marketable enviro-technology.
In 1985 a consortium of major businesses founded the German National Working Group for Environmentally Conscious Management. By 2007 this Group had 450 members. There is also a Green Entrepreneurs Association. These businesses closely monitor enviro-organizations and invest heavily in public relations. Textbooks have been written on how to “green” your business.
German environmentalism is also intertwined with, and bolstered by, tens of thousands of small organic food, alternative medicine, and “natural” product businesses. The Agrarian Alliance, an association of organic farming and animal rights groups, is a major movement organization.
(Business is not totally conquered. In 2005 the Federation of German Industry called for relaxing Germany’s commitment to Kyoto. Also, the German Farmer’s Association, representing agri-business, opposes environmental regulation and organic agriculture.)
The German Federation of Labour broached environmentalism in 1982. Many enviro-labour conferences followed. In 1991 the Federation and GNPR issued a joint statement of principles and agreed to cooperate on the 1992 Earth Summit. The Federation co-sponsored German Environmental Day (1992).
Some German print media outlets have environmental desks, but most rely on press releases and staged events such as conferences and demos. Follow-the-leader stories are common. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster and 1992 Earth Summit produced waves of stories. German television is overwhelmingly state-run. (Private television networks, banned until 1984, offer sparse news coverage.) State television and radio routinely broadcast enviro-propaganda in their news hours and documentaries and produce a plethora of “nature shows”.
Thus, Germany has unique levels of enviro-consciousness. The rate of membership in enviro-organizations is far above the European average. Germany has the most successful Green Party. Germany is the world leader in percentage of GNP spent on environmental protection and renewable energy. Germany is the leading exporter of environmental technology.
Within the EU, Germany is the driving force concerning pollution, climate change, and renewable energy. Hundreds of EU directives require member states to pass environmental laws. These directives are drafted by the EC’s Environmental Directorate at the behest of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and European Council of Environmental Ministers. The EEB represents 143 enviro-organizations from 31 countries and has a 15-member staff financed by the Environmental Directorate. EU pressure on environmental laggards is facilitated by a “Brussels enviro-network” led by: WWF-International, Climate Action Network Europe, European Federation for Transport and Environment, World Conservation Union, Greenpeace-International, Birdlife International, and Friends of the Earth-International. The latter three are dominated by their German chapters.
Institutionalization lowered the drawbridge of Germany’s neo-corporatist decision-making castle to enviro-organizations; but environmentalists still complain of being marginalized. The “problems” they feel are being neglected are: global warming, distant deforestation, agro-chemical overuse, suburbanization, over-consumption, coal-fired electricity, too many cars, and too much air travel. They still protect German “nature” which, of course, doesn’t exist. By “nature” they mean scenic rural landscapes and carefully managed forests wherein 40% of animal species are “threatened.”
Southern German Enviro-Organizations
Pre-1945 Prussia was by far the largest Land and had the largest nature protection movement. Post-1945 much of Prussia became East Germany, where estates were nationalized and nature protection marginalized. Thus, post-1945, movement organizations from southern Germany (Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemburg) rose to prominence.
The League for Bird Protection (LBP), founded in Stuttgart in 1899, became Germany’s largest bird organization. Atop LBP were the King of Baden and the King of Wurttemburg. Lina Hahnle, wife of a wealthy industrialist, donated long hours and generous financial support. LPB’s base consisted of teachers, ornithologists, and government officials. From the outset LPB focused on acquiring land “for the birds”. LBP also provided materials for schools and adult education. Hahnle’s son, Hermann, made much use of slide shows. In florid ultra-nationalist prose, LPB linked birds to patriotism during WWI.
When Ernst Rudorff was not hiking about his family’s estate he was fulminating against agricultural rationalization. His core idea was the “Volk” – an organic, cultural entity rooted in the land and threatened by materialism. Rudorff idealized villages and vilified cities. Urban workers disrespected authority and were inclined to socialism. The solution was educating the public about local customs, traditional architecture, and nature. Tourism had to be controlled, and railways had to be built organically into the landscape. His condemnations arose from sentimental aesthetics, but ecological arguments also appeared. His ideas resonated in the aristocracy.
In 1904 Rudorff led 150 men into the League for Homeland Protection (LHP). Architect and author Paul Schultze-Naumburg was President from 1904 to 1914. Hugo Conwentz sat on the board until his death; an understudy of his was Vice President. Atop the League were estate owners. Rank and file were pastors, writers, scientists, teachers, professors, and rural businessmen. Few were women. The leaders did not envision a people’s crusade as they doubted the working class could appreciate nature. Funding came from governments and private donors including board members who also supported a foundation that sustained the League during WWI. By then the League had 30,000 members and was drafting legislation. In the 1920s “homeland protection” achieved broad currency. In 1929 a sister organization launched publishing ventures.
LHP’s first big campaign was an unsuccessful fight against a hydroelectric dam on the Rhine. They tended not to oppose major projects outright, preferring to haggle about placement and design. They sometimes used ecological arguments, i.e. arguing trees prevented erosion and provided nesting places for insect-controlling birds. LHP activism stirred opposition from industry, billboard advertisers, and from locals hoping to benefit from obstructed projects.
In 1905 LHP, the Bavarian government, and Alpine Association launched the Committee for Nature Protection, which in turn launched the Bavarian League for Nature Protection (BNLP) in 1913 with ringing endorsement from the Bavarian Royal Family. The Committee’s and BNLP’s boards overlapped. BNLP meetings were held in the Bavarian Interior Ministry’s offices, and its managers were state officials. In 1926 BNLP and the Committee amalgamated into a quasi-government agency that recruited teachers, professors, and nature protection/forestry officials. 7% of members were women, mostly spouses of male members. BNLP, LHP, and LBP membership rolls broadly overlapped.
BNLP mobilized citizens into challenging the construction of roads, quarries, power stations, second homes, and tourist facilities. BNLP often settled for modifying, as opposed to blocking, projects. BNLP organized nature patrols and Nature Protection Days. Their brochures railed against human greed.
LHP embraced Nazism most enthusiastically. Schultze-Naumburg’s mansion was a fascist salon. As an early Nazi Party member, Schultze-Naumburg became the Nazis’ Education Minister in Thuringia, a Reichstag Deputy, and spokesman for their Militant Alliance for German Culture. His successor as LHP President was another Nazi zealot. Organic farming booster and Nazi Agricultural Minister, Walter Darre, was a Schultze-Naumburg disciple. LHP was generously state-funded throughout the Third Reich.
LBP welcomed the Nazi takeover and soon altered its bylaws to exclude non-Germans. Hahnle lauded Hitler in public speeches. LBP leaders were overjoyed with the 1935 Nature Protection Law and praised Nazi triumphs, even those unrelated to nature protection. Hitler’s pronouncements on hedgerow preservation dove-tailed with LPB activism. In 1938 LPB became the sole bird protection organization. Lesser clubs had to join or disband. Hahnle, “bird protection fuhrer,” oversaw chapters in Austria, Sudetenland, and Poland. Membership increased from 32,000 in 1933 to 55,000 in 1943.
Long before 1933 BNLP propaganda blended nature protection with ultra-nationalism. After 1933 they eagerly toed the Nazi line including its anti-Semitism. They celebrated German conquests in Eastern Europe as opportunities to protect nature. BNLP membership doubled during the Third Reich.
After WWII LHP continued to be led by militant conservatives and funded by governments. They began transforming into an enviro-organization in the late-1950s by adopting the cause of air pollution. Now bearing the name League for Homeland and Environment, they occupy the movement’s retrograde flank.
After WWII LBP President Hermann Hahnle carried on public education, reserve acquisition, and lobbying. LPB continued to receive government subsidies and donations from benefactors like the Hahnles. They regained their Third Reich membership peak by the mid-1960s. By then, they were crusading against pesticides.
After WWII BNLP leaders too closely tied to Nazism were shuffled off the board. However, by 1958 a former Nazi nature advisor was Chairman. In the 1945-65 era, they remained dependent on state subsidies and concentrated in Bavaria where they acquired nature reserves, contained tourism, and blocked development of open spaces. They fought several battles against Bavarian Hydroelectric and one against Munich Airport. They regained Third Reich membership levels in 1965.
In 1965 BNLP began transforming into a national enviro-organization. In 1969 their Chairman was shunted aside to make way for Hubert Weinzierl – a wealthy young essayist trained as a forester. (He later became President of the German Nature Protection.) Weinzierl focused on pollution, consumerism, overpopulation, and resource depletion. He called for comprehensive land use planning and an economy respecting nature’s limits. In 1971 he changed the title and content of their magazine to reflect “environmentalism”. (At this time BNLP’s old guard secured a bylaw revision restricting voting at AGMs to club delegates, thereby preventing incoming hoards from gaining any more than superficial control.)
In 1970 LBP dues increases allowed for the hiring of a salaried executive and the launching of a publishing house and a magazine. LPB transformed, albeit with internal conflict, from a staid nature protection association into an activist enviro-organization. Their mission expanded to include all species (not just birds), the landscape, and the “environment”.
In 1975 BNLP launched the League for Environment and Nature Protection (known as “BUND” as in Bund fur Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland) in conjunction with like-minded groups in Baden-Wurttemberg, Lower Saxony and Saarland and the Ecology Group. While ultra-rightists were prominent at BUND’s founding, most withdrew after it became clear they could not push through their agenda. Sufficient numbers remained behind for their representatives to occasionally surface in leadership positions, to BUND’s embarrassment. BUND’s second President, Herbert Gruhl, tried to convert BUND into an electoral party, but resistance to this and to Gruhl’s rightist leanings led to his defeat after one term.
Between 1969 and 1987 BNLP/BUND membership increased from 19,000 to 77,000. During this period, paid staff at both BUND’s Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia chapters grew from 0 to 30. Bavaria’s chapter now has 30 full-time and 100 part-time staff. In the late-1980s BUND began farming out fundraising to specialists.
In the 1980s, when youth leader Jochen Flasbarth began asserting himself, LBP severed relations with hunters’ associations and voted to oppose nuclear power. The latter move (1986) caused 10,000 resignations but drew in more people than it cost. By 1988 LBP was hyperactive and confrontational.
The sole East German enviro-alliance, Society for Nature and Environment, was courted by WWF and BUND, but LBP proved the successful suitor in 1990. The resulting union, German Nature Protection League (NABU: Naturschutzbund Deutschland), became an environmental “sundries store” concerned with: climate, energy, transportation, land use, resource use, biodiversity, ecosystems, health, and waste. NABU lobbies all levels of government but has a national focus. NABU maintains 5,000 nature reserves; 50 double as educational centres.
BUND combined nature protection with environmentalism in their 1980s “forest death” campaign. A coterminous anti-nuclear campaign so alienated the pro-nuclear Bavarian government that BUND meetings were no longer welcome in the Interior Ministry building and Bavarian civil servants could no longer participate in BUND in their official capacities.
In 1998 BUND’s Weinzierl handed the reins to his long-time Vice President, economist Angelika Zahrnt. In 1995 Zahrnt wrote a piece praising simple, low-consumption lifestyles. She played a key role in producing a 1996 report on how Germany might develop an ecologically sound economy. This widely publicized report, co-produced with a Catholic agency and the Wuppertal Institute, advocated high fuel taxes. In 1999 Zahrnt accused the SDP/Green coalition of cowardice and foot-dragging. In 2003 she bemoaned how this coalition bowed to the industry-union alliance.
BUND has 20 issue-specific working groups addressing: organic agriculture, renewable energy, globalization, climate change, etc. BUND maintains a growing national network of nature reserves; five double as environmental education centres. BUND and NABU executives question the enormous funds going toward buying small tracts of land, but certain supporters demand this.
BUND is more confrontational than NABU, especially regarding nuclear power. BUND demos have included: dumping thousands of non-recyclable cans in front of a brewery, setting up a fake beach near Dusseldorf to dramatize global warming-induced sea level rises, and bringing a dinosaur to a climate conference to symbolize fossil fuel dependence. The photo-laden, glossy BUNDmagazine runs “deep ecology” articles and questions economic growth.
BUNDmagazine also carries ads for enviro-kindergartens, natural food retailers, green insurance firms, green pensions, green electricity, and rail discount cards. BUND itself sells eco-travel insurance, health insurance orientated to natural healing, and accident insurance oriented to pedestrians and cyclists. BUND offers discounted phone service and operates an eco-tour travel agency. A subsidiary assists members in the building, financing, remodelling, and furnishing ecologically sound homes.
Between articles advising on diet and clothing, NABU’s quarterly magazine (circulation 200,000) carries puff pieces on the corporations with whom NABU cooperates, and ads for ethical investment firms. NABU’s Nature Shop sells books, binoculars, nesting boxes, and clothing emblazoned with NABU’s logo. NABU works closely with the eco-pioneer Otto mail order house.
NABU membership in 2000 was 287,000, up 37% from 1995. (10% attend meetings.) The increase resulted from the inclusion of Bavaria’s bird protection organization’s membership (66,000) into their grand total. Membership is two-thirds male and predominantly rural. NABU remains geographically imbalanced toward Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemburg.
There are 1,500 local NABU clubs. 95% of leaders are men. Local delegates elect the national board. There is little turnover. Elections are often uncontested. When Jochen Flasbarth (President, 1992 to 2003) resigned to become Director of the Federal Environment Ministry’s Nature Protection Division, he was replaced by the Lower Saxony Chairman (formerly a salaried NABU executive.) NABU Land chapters are controlled by cliques.
BUND has 16 Land chapters and 2,200 local clubs. Chapters coordinate nature study trips, lectures, festivals, and brochure distribution. Clubs maintain organic orchards, plant trees, re-naturalize streams, re-introduce species, and protect nesting areas. Nationally, and at the Land level, power is concentrated in cliques of entrenched directors and executives. Elections are often uncontested, paid employees hold elected offices, individuals occupy more than one position, and departing leaders pick their replacements. BUND is afflicted by professionalization and centralization tension.
NABU revenues (2004) were 19 million euros. 66% came from membership dues. 18% came from wealthy individuals and businesses (IBM, Volkswagen, Ford, BP, and Lufthansa). Government grants accounted for 5%. The porcelain factory that makes NABU’s “bird of the year” plates is a donor.
BUND has relationships with Ford and a nuclear power company. BUND has a deal with a department store to promote cloth bags as alternatives to plastic bags, with BUND getting a cut from each bag sold. BUND promotes Tupperware products. (Some local clubs refused HQ orders to hold Tupperware parties.) BUND has a nature preserve joint venture with DHL. BUND’s foundation, Euronatur, accepts funds from Daimler-Chrysler et al. (HQ forced the Thuringia chapter to abandon an anti-reservoir campaign after the reservoir’s builders made a donation to Euronatur.) BUND cooperates with the chemical lobby and runs a recycling consultancy.
Many of BUND’s 260,000 members (2007) authorize automated donations from their bank accounts. 10% of members are active. 66% live in Bavaria or Baden-Wurttemberg. In Bavaria 4% of BUNDers are farmers, 15% are teachers or professors, 30% are government employees.
80% of BUND’s annual revenues (around 16 million euros) come from dues and gifts. Governments account for 5% and businesses 1%. About 5% of expenditures go to soliciting, 6% go to administration.
NABU’s and BUND’s door-to-door solicitation teams are commonly referred to as “pressure squads”. Executives shrug off this criticism, claiming the technique has proven its worth.
NABU subsidiaries include a youth affiliate, two foundations (notably German Environmental Assistance), and a science advisory. NABU employs research centres on a contract basis. Between 1988 and 2007, the paid workforce at NABU’s HQ grew from 5 to 80. Their press office employs five full-time.
BUND and NABU co-sponsor Environment Day and an annual bicycle ride and cooperate closely on land use and water issues. In Baden-Wurttemberg NABU and BUND share board members and hold joint conferences.
BUND is the German affiliate, and dominant member, of Friends of the Earth – a federation of 70 national enviro-organizations with 1.5 million members. Friends of the Earth, a 1970s Sierra Club off-shoot, is a fierce opponent of trade liberalization and industrial agriculture. Friends of the Earth has 28 European chapters and a lobby team in Brussels.
NABU is active in Eastern Europe and Africa and is the dominant chapter in Birdlife International – a well-funded, well-organized network with 29 European chapters.
Friends of Nature
Friends of Nature was founded in Vienna in 1895 to popularize the upper class hobby of hiking. A German chapter was founded in Munich in 1905. Twenty years later there were 1,000 German chapters with 100,000 members and an independent German board of directors. Friends of Nature-Germany built hundreds of hiking shelters. They opposed logging, wetland drainage, and billboard construction.
Friends’ leaders viewed nature treks as ways to counter technology’s dominance. By rhapsodizing nature in folk-songs they sought to give nature protection a mass appeal. Labour and leftist leaders complained Friends pulled workers away from union and party activism and distracted them from obtaining a greater share of industry’s bounty. Friends’ leaders expelled 200 suspected Communist-infiltrated chapters. Despite these purges and despite their break with Vienna, Friends failed to win the Nazis’ trust and were dissolved after 1933.
Headed by a former leader who spent the Third Reich running a pro-Nazi hiking club, Friends re-grouped after WWII. They embraced a synthesis of nature protection and environmentalism centered on protecting the Alps from commercial tourism. In the 1950s they halted construction of a cement plant in the Swabian Alps, crusaded against a strip mine in Hesse, and fought to preserve roadside trees. In the 1980s they were the first to speak out against global warming.
By 2007 Friends of Nature-Germany had 100,000 members in 700 chapters. Their main causes are: riverbank protection, eco-tourism, climate change, and organic food. Their political work is secondary to hiking, and they are not highly visible in the media.
German Nature Protection Ring
GNPR is an umbrella organization founded by 19 groups in 1950. By 2007 GNPR represented 97 groups with a gross (overlapping) membership of five million. GNPR leads national campaigns, promotes nature protection in schools, and protests specific development projects.
In the late-1960s GNPR caught the environmentalism wave. They opened a hotline in 1972 so citizens could report environmental problems, and they adopted “Federal Organization for Environmental Protection” as a sub-title in 1974.
GNPR’s original members included hunter, angler, and hiker associations. As trendy enviro-organizations joined, the original members became agitated. In the early-1980s, bylaw changes gave enviro-organizations a majority. Bitter conflicts ensued. Ultimately GNPR ejected hunters’ associations and suffered a wave of resignations. Canoeist, hiking, and divers’ groups remain and occasionally block enviro-initiatives.
As Germany’s largest enviro-alliance, GNPR reps sit on commissions, study groups, and award selection panels like the Advisory Council on Sustainability. The German Association of Engineers accepts input from GNPR. Chancellors meet regularly with GNPR Presidents.
GNPR’s German Newsletter (funded by the Federal government) is the most comprehensive information source about German environmentalism. Their Brussels-based EU liaison’s newsletter is equally influential. The prominent think tank, Forum for Environment and Development, is housed in GNPR offices (and funded by the Federal government). GNPR receives 250,000 euros annually from the Federal government and free labour from the civilian alternative to military service program.
While GNPR has led successful national campaigns for high energy taxes and restrictive nature protection laws, they have not emerged as the voice of German environmentalism due to conflict between members whose focus is environmentalism and members for whom environmentalism is secondary to recreation.
Enviro-militants picketed GNPR’s booth at the 1992 Environment Day because they considered the event too pro-business. In 2001, 13 disenchanted member groups launched the alternative German Nature Protection Forum. In 2004 GNPR’s largest funders, NABU and BUND, reduced their contributions, dealing GNPR a painful blow. GNPR’s President complains that too many member groups are small-minded and obsessed with media visibility.
Worldwide Fund for Nature-Germany
WWF-Germany is a foundation with a self-perpetuating board of directors dominated by wealthy big game hunters. It hasn’t even the pretence of internal democracy.
WWF, known originally (and in the USA still) as the World Wildlife Fund, was launched by a powerful clique in Britain in 1961 to finance wilderness protection around the world. A German affiliate was founded two years later by ten men. For years WWF-Germany was merely a fundraiser for WWF-International that made a few grants toward German nature protection but sought no publicity. In 1978 WWF-Germany had 4,500 donors.
Under the leadership of a former Volkswagen executive, the donor base grew to 100,000 by 1988. During this period WWG-Germany emphasised German projects and began influencing domestic policy through press conferences and the provision of school materials. WWF-International underwent a coterminous mission creep toward issues like ozone holes and global warming. In 2002 WWF-Germany issued a study recommending Germany reduce CO2 emissions by switching to renewable energy. A WWF joint venture places solar panels atop Berlin train stations. Current WWF goals are: protecting biodiversity and ecosystems and fighting climate change and unsound agricultural practices. Their propaganda highlights megafauna: elephants, tigers, and bears.
WWF-Germany occasionally gets contentious. Their promotion of the Forest Stewardship Council’s certification program caused clashes with German logging interests. They organized a petition protesting Kohl’s backsliding on greenhouse gas reductions, and they sank a giant banknote to symbolize the wastefulness of a proposed dam on the Ems River. Conversely, their participation in the 2000 World’s Fair in Hanover drew criticism from enviro-organizations who deemed the fair too pro-business. They stood alone in their position that farmers should be fully compensated if enviro-regulations limit their land’s value.
WWF-Germany’s main activity remains acquiring “ecologically sensitive” land. They run several related research stations, notably the Floodplain Institute. In 2003 they were engaged in 48 international projects and 30 domestic ones.
WWF-Germany’s glossy magazine is filled with world-class nature photography and articles written by WWF staff. The magazine runs ads for WWF’s mail order house and has a Young Pandas page. WWF-Germany also has an elaborate website and an e-newsletter with tens of thousands of subscribers.
WWF-Germany has no volunteers. Its 112 employees (2004) are over half women and one-third part-timers. HQ is in Frankfurt, but there are several satellite offices. Their 12-member lobbying team followed the German government to Berlin in 2003.
Circa 2000 WWF-Germany had: 236,000 “supporters” paying annual dues of 40 euros, 4,500 “patrons” contributing 360 euros a year, and 365 “global protectors” giving 1,000 euros a year. A typical donor is an educated man with above-average income who is over 35 years old and lives in a southern German suburb. They self-identify as “Germany’s worthies”.
WWF-Germany’s 2004 revenues were 27 million euros. 60% came from donations, 11% from inheritances, 13% from governments, and 7% from business. (More recently, 33% of revenues came from business and government.) 6% of expenditures go to “administration”; 13% go to “supporter services and recruitment”. Their 12-member fundraising team is divided between corporate fundraising and direct marketing. Some of this work is farmed out to Dialog Direct.
The panda logo appears on products and services not associated with environmentalism: air travel (Lufthansa), disposable diapers (Pampers), automobiles (Opel), and non-refillable bottles. WWF-Germany sells wildlife postage stamps to various postal services. Panda-Catalogue offers 3,000 items to 500,000 readers. Stuffed megafauna are money-makers as is their Tiffany panda pin. Panda Investment Fund is a joint venture with Deutsche Bank.
Greenpeace-Germany’s (GP-G) 10,000 square foot head office could be mistaken for the offices of the corporations it vilifies. The executives inside are selected for their skills developed in the corporate world, not for their environmental commitment. GP-G’s vaunted half million supporters have no say in governance. Only 40 members (including 10 representing staff and 10 representing GP-International) get to vote for the all-powerful board of directors.
The tale of brave Canadians sailing their tiny boat into a nuclear test zone is recited religiously by Greenpeace members. While Greenpeace sprouted in Canada, it took root in Europe. GP-International (GP-I) dates to 1979. GP-G coalesced months later with assistance from GP-I and GP-Holland.
In 1982, when GP-G had 500 supporters, they retained a corporate fundraiser to do mail-outs. They discovered that asking the public for support, alongside free mass media hype, fetched mailbags full of small donations. By 1990 GP-G’s computers held 1.5 million donor addresses. GP-G was Germany’s largest enviro-organization with 140 employees and a 30 million euro budget. Their fundraising director won the Social Marketing Association’s Fundraiser of the Year Award in 2000.
A cascade of positive media coverage powered GP-G’s growth. Major media outlets fawned over GP-G and ran their advertisements for free. In the 1990s German newspapers mentioned GP-G 13,000 times a year and German television mentioned GP-G 3,000 times a year. By 1998 90% of Germans recognized GP-G’s name, and 72% said GP-G was their most trusted source of environmental information. GP-G maintained this trust despite grossly overstating the amount of radiation emitted by nuclear waste shipments and despite intentionally exaggerating the amount of oil remaining in the Brent Spar oil platform. (In a tribute to media power, GP-G abandoned a 1990s effort to block a North Sea oil pipeline after they failed to attract media interest.)
GP-G’s magazine has a paid circulation of 130,000. An eight-page tabloid is given free to donors. Neither publication distinguishes between GP-G and GP-I. Both publications hawk merchandise through GP-G’s mail order house and carry advertisements for GP green electricity and for trips on GP ships. GP-G also utilizes pamphlets, exhibits, and info-stands. They briefly had their own national TV show. Mainstream newspapers still run GP-G ads for free, and GP-G supplements these by purchasing ads and by running clips before films. They farm out some photographic and public relations work to private companies and hire ecological research institutes to write reports.
GP-G lobbies all levels of German governance regarding: nuclear power, forests, oceans, chemicals, petroleum, climate change, and GMOs. They leapt on the 2001 mad cow disease scare to springboard into an anti-industrial agriculture campaign. GP-G’s foundation funds traditional projects such as preserving heritage species of farm animals.
GP-G accepts neither advertisements nor donations from business. Nevertheless, GP-G has worked with manufacturers to develop fuel-efficient cars and ozone-layer-friendly refrigerators. They work with furniture makers and logging companies to protect certain forests.
GP-G membership peaked in the 1980s at 750,000, and then declined to 550,000 in 1995 where it stabilized. 1% of members partake in demonstrations.
In 2007 GP-I received 162 million euros from 2.8 million donors spread across 41 countries. 27 national chapters have delegates on GP-I’s Council of Representatives. While all national chapters lost supporters in the 1990s, GP-G lost the least, hence emerged as the largest. GP-G accounts for 30% of GP-I revenues and 20% of membership. GP-G’s Hamburg HQ controls GP-I’s fleet of ships and a warehouse full of protest gear. GP-I’s last two Executive Secretaries have been Germans.
GP-G revenues (2005) were 42 million euros. Donations of less than 100 euros account for 70% of revenues. These are supplemented by inheritances and large donations. 33% of expenditures go to international campaigns, 7% to administration, 6% to “acquiring donations”, and 19% to “communications”. Their slush fund held 39 million euros.
GP-G’s 180 employees and 2,500 volunteers are spread over 80 branches. Marching orders come from Hamburg. Volunteers staff info-booths, attend demos, and collect signatures. They complain HQ expects them to be merely street-corner barkers. There is much turnover. GP-G does not solicit door to door but does pay staff to solicit donations at info-booths.
In the 1980s a GP-G faction, complaining about centralization and professionalization, split to form Robin Wood (RW). They achieved visibility with illegal protests against “forest death”. As this phantom calamity dissipated, RW fixated onto tropical rainforest destruction. In 1988 they hired professional fundraisers who, through mail-outs, fetched one million euros per year. By 1994 RW had 3,000 members in 30 clubs. Success was short-lived. By 2007 only 13 clubs remained, and revenues drooped. RW’s rank and file complain about centralization and professionalization.
In the early 1990s, HQ’s unionized employees unsuccessfully contested plans to raise management salaries. Later in the decade they got one executive fired for his high expenses and lavish lifestyle.
GP-G actions are carefully rehearsed paramilitary photo-ops where spontaneous involvement of ordinary citizens is neither sought nor desired. Typical actions include driving rubber rafts between whalers and whales and climbing smokestacks to hang banners. Less daring actions have included: building a wall of insulation in front of the Construction Ministry to highlight the need to fight global warming, dumping genetically altered corn in front of the Health Ministry, and organizing a mail-back of spray cans to their manufacturers to protest ozone damage. They collected one million signatures urging the German government to pressure Canada into stopping the seal harvest. They organized a boycott of Norwegian products to protest Norwegian whaling.
Despite a judiciary sympathetic to environmentalist civil disobedience, GP-G has been successfully sued several times by businesses. In 1998 the Federal government prosecuted GP-G for sabotaging a railroad track to thwart a nuclear waste shipment. GP-G has a legal defence fund and a team of attorneys who pre-approve all demos and press releases. GP-G will not partake in protests that might turn violent.
GP-G, the least collegial of the big enviro-organizations, argues the movement is best served by organizational diversity. Other enviro-organizations view GP-G as publicity hounds.
Cold War Environmentalism
The East German regime favoured trains and recycling not due to green inclination but due to material and energy shortages. Circa 1960, East German “environmentalism” consisted of 40,000 activists in 600 clubs under the watch of the state-controlled Friends of Nature and Homeland (FNH).
Circa 1960 in West Germany, a political form, the Citizen Initiative (CI), traditionally used by elites for conservative causes, was appropriated by leftists mobilizing around tenants’ rights, welfare rights, and better treatment of minorities. These new CIs were loosely organized and short-lived. Few had staff. Grassroots democracy and a local focus were common features. Few were environmentalist. At the same time, leftist protests concerning the Vietnam War, university reform, and nuclear weapons swept West Germany. The state responded.
In 1972 far-leftists were banned from government employment. Also in 1972, Interior Minister Genscher summoned 15 upstart environmentalist CIs to the founding conference of the Federal Alliance of Citizen’s Initiatives for Environmental Protection. Several Interior Ministry officials attended this conference, which was funded by a Free Democratic Party foundation. The Ministry covered the travel costs for delegates from Lutheran groups and the World League for the Protection of Life.
The Alliance’s charter claimed untrammelled capitalism was causing ecological catastrophe. The charter denounced industrial chemicals and nuclear power while praising renewable energy, nature protection, and the simple life. The Alliance wanted increased organic farming and reduced industrial scale. Their “counter-cultural” critique of consumerism regurgitated turn-of-the-century reactionary anti-capitalism.
Alliance-affiliated CIs formed regional coalitions where individuals could join but not vote. Alliance members were concentrated in the south. Bavarian enviro-CI’s increased five-fold between 1972 and 1979. The Alliance purged leftist CIs.
By 1975 the Alliance, 100 CIs strong, was publishing a newsletter and a magazine and was hosting well-attended Interior Ministry-funded press conferences. The Alliance became the main coordinator of confrontational demonstrations. When autocratic Alliance President Wustenhagen resigned in 1977, a triumvirate filled his boots, one of whom, Jo Leinen, was the main spokesman until 1985 when he became Saarland’s Environmental Minister.
Back in East Germany, circa 1972, Lutheran theologians initiated environmental discussions. In 1973 they created an enviro-research centre in Wittenberg, which grew into an activist hub. In the ensuing years “city ecology” groups emerged, many under the Lutherans’ wing.
In 1980 the East German government re-organized FNH into Society for Nature and Environment (SNE). By the late 1980s SNE had 60,000 members in 1,500 groups. Within SNE were scores of city ecology groups with several thousand members. Overlapping the city ecologists were 60 Lutheran-based groups with several to 100 members each.
“City ecology” linked environmentalism to democratization. City ecologists mingled with pacifist on human rights activists. To ward off censors, their documents were often labelled “only for church use”. Initially they planted trees, cleared streams, and put on solar power demos. Later, they organized petitions and held contentious meetings with the authorities.
East German Churches began establishing environmental libraries in 1985. In 1988 the Berlin Environmental Library spawned the disciplined and confrontational Green Network Ark – a Friends of the Earth affiliate with funding from the West. In 1987 police raided the Berlin Environmental Library, confiscated its presses, and arrested its leaders. Street demonstrations and church protests won the return of the presses and release of the prisoners.
By 1989 a political force aimed at regime change had consolidated in East Germany. Exploiting environmental problems was a significant part of their strategy. Such problems, they argued, could not be addressed without democratization. Enviro-activists played leading roles in key opposition groups like “New Forum” and “Citizens’ Movement for Democracy Now”.
Environmentalists filled important posts in the new government. They shut down nuclear power plants and created vast nature reserves. West German environmental law was adopted wholesale. Many East German industrial operations were declared dirty and shut down.
GP-G had begun staging demonstrations with hot air balloons to protest East German nuclear power and pollution in the Elbe in 1980. They supplied East German church groups with water pollution detection equipment. They had an office in Berlin before the wall fell. After it fell, conflict broke out over whether certain parcels of land in former East Germany should go to GP-G or to a hunters’ association.
While the Berlin wall was falling, WWF-Germany was setting up an office in Potsdam to acquire East German public lands. BUND is also heavily involved in acquiring these lands. NABU has a foundation specifically designed for this purpose.
West German “counter-culture” enviro-organizations wilted after 1990; the Alliance was no exception. Amidst conflict between Alliance directors and editors, the Alliance’s influential transportation working group jumped ship in 1985. Financial problems, aggravated by an inability to attract private donors, forced the Alliance to discontinue their magazine and reduce their staff to one. Their influence collapsed with their membership rolls. Between 1994 and 2004 most Alliance-affiliated networks dissolved. Many affiliated CIs reconstituted as BUND locals.
East German enviro-organizations succumbed to well-funded groups from the West. SNE was absorbed into NABU. Green Network Ark folded into the Green Party. While major enviro-organizations boast of millions of supporters, only a few thousand of these live in the East and most of them migrated from the West. The German government funds “Green League” to coordinate the remaining Eastern enviro-CIs. The League, and a connected Berlin monthly paper, occasionally engage in protest but generally eschew mass mobilizing.
The Old Right
It was a revelation for Markham that “environmentalism has repeatedly been linked to powerful ideologies and movements of the right.” He concludes his journey opining:
“In short, the German case clearly demonstrates that overgeneralizations from current political alignments in Germany and the US, which identify environmentalism almost exclusively with “progressive” social movements, are misleading.”
Critiques of the Enlightenment articulated by 18th century Romantics re-appeared in Wilhelm Riehl’s 19th century denunciations of industrialization, cosmopolitanism, and nature destruction. Opposing both liberalism and socialism, Riehl advocated a stratified society rooted in the peasantry.
Ecology founder Ernst Haeckel concocted a reactionary religion, Monism. This blend of ecology and pantheism was billed as a biocentric elixir for warding off liberalism. Haeckel’s social-Darwinism focussed on the survival of nations. He belonged to the Pan-German League and the Thule Society (a precursor to the Nazi Party).
Early nature protectionists were reactionaries obsessed with national identity. Proto-Nazi homeland protectionists proclaimed nature protection as a core goal. Nazi propaganda pitched both nature and landscape protection. Nazi legislation won universal praise from nature protectionists. No nature organization criticized the Nazis. None chose not to cooperate with the Third Reich. Almost all enjoyed lavish state subsidies during the nightmare years.
The Third Reich’s fall dealt right-wing ecology a blow, but hardly a lethal one. The discrediting of the “blood and soil” and “homeland protection” frames forced the movement to refurbish its rhetorical repertoire. Nevertheless, critiques linking nature protection with conservative resistance remain in the platforms and writings of right-wing parties and intellectuals. Such people populate enviro-organizations. The Green Party, BUND et al. harbour unreconstructed old-right factions.
The 1970s counter-culture critique, being a mix of nature protection, anti-consumerism, and techno-scepticism, was basically regurgitated fascist propaganda. The 1980s New Right incorporated ecological themes in their discourse – mainly crypto-racist arguments about immigration threatening Germany’s environment. This case was made in the 1982 Heidelberg Manifesto and in the platform of the Republicaner Party, which achieved short-lived electoral success in the late 1980s. The immigrant issue was also exploited by the Ecological Democratic Party, which floundered in the 1990s when its leaders strayed into the mainstream, thereby alienating their ultra-right base.
Today ultra-right environmentalist groupings like Collegium Humanum, Federal Association for Ecology, and World League for the Protection of Life host seminars and publish a mutating array of magazines. Common themes are: a) the role of heredity in human behaviour; b) problems of ethnically mixed societies; c) overpopulation and immigration; d) organicism; e) socio-biology; f) rejection of socialism and capitalism; and g) calls for strong leadership.
Ultra-right ecology, being the historic core of German environmentalism, cannot help but bubble to the surface. German environmentalism is susceptible to a takeover by the ultra-right:
“…the long history of right-wing ecology makes it unwise to conclude that they will never again rise to prominence.”
82 million Germans inhabit 357,000 square kilometres. Americans, Australians, and Canadians have a hard time conceptualizing this. Montana covers the same area but has fewer than one million inhabitants. At Germany’s density, Australia would have 25% more people than China, and Canada’s entire population would almost squeeze onto Newfoundland.
Nearly all German land is privately owned. However, compared to the English-speaking world, Germany has a low rate of land ownership. Two-thirds of German urban households are tenants, and most of Germany’s 200,000 sq km of farmland is rented. Industrial and commercial real estate is overwhelmingly rented.
The vast majority of Germany’s several million landowners own only their homes, often with a mortgage. At the other end of the land-owning continuum one finds: Prince Thurn and Taxis (500 sq km), Prince Hohenzollern (480 sq km), the Hohenloe family (250 sq km), and the Bismarcks (225 sq km). A few thousand inter-related old aristocratic families own most of the revenue-generating real estate. Rent flowing to the “German landed interest” is around $500 billion a year.
Maintaining high rent means restricting land supply. This is the function of conservationism. German land magnates own 50,000 sq km of “nature”. Enviro-organizations own 20,000 sq km (governments own 36,000 sq km). In comparison, the Landers of Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen collectively cover 2,000 sq km yet house seven million citizens, mostly tenants. What would be the market value of NABU’s 5,000 nature reserves if re-zoned residential? Somehow Markham wrote a treatise on German environmentalism without mentioning rent.
Ideologically hobbled as he is, even Markham can grasp that environmentalism is more than the sum of enviro-organizations like Greenpeace, WWF, etc. What he cannot grasp is that the movement’s core is the landed interest – the hundred thousand landlords, some of whom are the world’s wealthiest men. The main movement nexus is between the landed interest and the state, not between enviro-organizations and the state. Post-1990, after environmentalism’s institutionalization, environmentalists within the state have been driving the movement.
While Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry’s budget is merely $2.3 billion (2011), their mandate includes coordinating the environmental budgets of other Federal ministries, which collectively amount to $16 billion. This figure balloons if Lander enviro-budgets are included and is dwarfed by the economic effect of the myriad energy surcharges and enviro-regulations that have engendered the enormous renewable energy and recycling industries, etc. The cumulative budgets of all German enviro-organizations would not equal $1 billion, and part of this comes from governments.
Markham ignores German environmentalism’s colonization of education even though he chronicles how this movement systematically recruited teachers and professors, and strategically inserted its propaganda into school curricula, for over 100 years. The number of persons teaching enviro-science, ecology, or conservation biology in Germany’s public schools and 83 universities vastly exceeds the numbers employed by enviro-organizations to preach eco-babble. Post-secondary students majoring in such programs constitute much of the movement’s volunteer base. This is a mass movement mobilization within the state.
Markham also neglects next-gen enviro-orgs like the Potsdam Climate Institute and Heinrich Bohl Stiftung. Both of these quasi-state enterprises date to the 1990s, and both employ 300 persons.
A common denominator of enviro-policy is the subsidization of landowners. Germany’s energy retrofit program involves a trillion dollar upgrade to rental buildings whose owners may recoup their expenditures through rent increases. Green energy mainly consists of wind and solar farms situated on private property, the owners of which benefit from rents, surcharges, and tax breaks. Biofuel programs are an enormous windfall to rural landowners, who are essentially paid a premium to burn their crops. Nature conservation regulations pay landowners to doing nothing with their land. Land-intensive modes of agriculture (free range and organic) increase the demand for land.
This review provides a dated (2007) snapshot of German environmentalism. The last five years have seen: a) firming up of the nuclear power phase-out; b) spectacular growth of renewable energy; c) the announcement of the energy retrofit program; d) growth of German clout within the EU; and e) the sudden, mysterious demise of that bastion of German free market advocacy: the Free Democratic Party.
The more the landed interest colonizes labour and business, the more of a juggernaut environmentalism becomes. A momentous portion of the workforce is now employed in industries that would not exist absent enviro-regulation. 20% of German electricity comes from renewables, and this is slated to increase to 35%. Biodiesel crops cover 10% of German farmland, and this is slated to double. Organic foods, recycling, green appliances, and electric cars are large and growing industries. A point of no return is being crossed en route to an anti-capitalist, anti-democratic regime. A Green Chancellor waits…
Markham, William; Environmental Organizations in Modern Germany: Hardy Survivors in the Twentieth Century and Beyond; Berghahn Books, 2008.