Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics

Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics

Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics

Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics

Synopsis

"Organized across national boundaries and with millions of supporters worldwide, transnational environmental activist groups such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and Friends of the Earth play a central role in the way the world addresses environmental issues. This book provides the most systematic and theoretically informed study to date of the strategies these organizations use to advance global environmental protection. Based on case studies of three transnational groups, it argues that in addition to lobbying governments, activists operate within and across societies to effect widespread change. They work through transnational social, economic, and cultural networks to alter corporate practices, educate vast numbers of people, pressure multilateral development banks, and shift standards of good conduct. Wapner argues that because this activity takes place outside the formal arena of inter-state politics, environmental activists practice "world civic politics"; they politicize global civil society. The theoretical import of this book is to bring the practice of world civic politics into sharp relief and generalize its significance beyond environmental affairs to explain the efforts of all NGOs in world politics." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

They are wrong who think that politics is like an ocean voyager or a military campaign, something to be done with some end in view, something which levels off as soon as that end is reached. It is not a public chore to be got over with; it is a way of life.

—Plutarch

There is now widespread agreement that environmental issues represent enduring challenges to the way people everywhere live their lives. We now know, "in our bones," as William Ophuls put it, that we cannot continue using resources and producing wastes irrespective of the earth's carrying capacity but rather must bring our social and productive activities more into line with the biological limits of the earth. Indeed, almost any indicator one chooses to look at tells essentially the same story: unless human beings alter their activities on a widespread scale, the quality of life on earth will be greatly compromised, if not fundamentally threatened, due to environmental degradation.

Developing and sustaining an environmentally sound course, however, is no easy matter, especially recognizing that environmental dangers are the cumulative effects of practices taking place in diverse settings, animated by multifarious factors. Moreover, environmental protection is not the only aim of societies and thus must be balanced with other social goals, such as economic well-being, which, depending upon how one thinks about it, can conflict with environmentally sound measures. To reorient human activities on such a scale and order of complexity entails employing means of governance that can actually influence vast and diverse numbers of people. It requires finding ways to constrain and direct activities, in a feasible manner, away from environmentally harmful practices and toward more environmentally sound ones. To put it in ordinary language, environmental concern fundamentally involves politics.

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