Environmental Protest in Western Europe

Environmental Protest in Western Europe

Environmental Protest in Western Europe

Environmental Protest in Western Europe


Based upon an analysis of the protest events reported in one quality newspaper in each of eight countries during the ten years 1988 to 1997, this is the first systematically comparative study of environmental protest in a representative cross-section of EU member states. It breaks entirely new ground in the study of environmental politics in Europe and is a major contribution to the study of protest events.


The environmental movement is perhaps the most important, and certainly the most durable, of the social and political movements that emerged during the last third of the twentieth century. Yet it has been the subject of remarkably little systematic comparative study. Especially surprising is the lack of attention to the development of environmentalism in the great laboratory of social and political experimentation that is the European Union.

The honourable exception is, of course, Russell Dalton's admirable book The Green Rainbow (1994), but that book was based upon interviews conducted in the mid-1980s, and it was focused upon a selection of environmental movement organizations (EMOs). As a result, it could not address the issues that arose with the dramatic expansion of such organizations in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Believing that systematic comparative investigation of environmental movements in western Europe is overdue, we have undertaken an ambitious exploration of the several dimensions of the changing character of environmentalism in eight European countries—the Transformation of Environmental Activism (TEA) project.

There is a need to look afresh at EMOs, but an organization-centred approach would not suffice to illuminate what by the mid-1990s appeared to be the most interesting aspect of the changing character of environmentalism—the rise in several countries of radical environmental protest at best problematically related to any of the established organizations. For that reason, we began our investigation with an analysis of nationally reported environmental protest during the decade in which the transformation of the environmental movement was supposed to have been most fundamental. This book is the result. Subsequent volumes will examine EMOs, and environmental activism at the local level.

The scientific desirability of research does not guarantee that it will be carried out. a major determinant of what gets researched is what can be funded, and the general paucity of broadly comparative research in this area is largely explained by the limited opportunities for funding. We have been extremely fortunate in having obtained almost all of the considerable funds required from a single source—the European Commission. the ec Directorate General for Research (formerly dg XII—Science, Research, and Development) provided funding under the 'Human dimensions of environmental change' programme of Framework iv (EC contract number ENV4-CT97-0514—see Appendix B). Not only did they fund us, but they left us to get on with the task in the way we proposed, without interference of any kind. For that we are extremely grateful.

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