Political Ecology and Environmentalism in Britain

27 sept. 2013
Université Rennes 2 - Rennes (France)


Political ecology in Europe made its first appearance in Britain with the creation of ‘People’, the original name of today’s Green Party in 1973. It took another ten years for the German Greens to make their way into the Bundestag in 1983. Around two decades later, John McCormick claimed that Britain had “the oldest, best organized and most widely supported environmental lobby in the world”, representing “the largest mass movement in British history” [J. McCormick, British Politics & the Environment, London: Earthscan, 1991, p.34]. By the time the 2010 General Elections were held, the outgoing New Labour government had a patchy record on the environment, the initial green promise(s) having been rapidly overtaken by more mundane, social and economic considerations. The arrival, therefore, of a new, blue and yellow coalition government raised some green hopes. In opposition, the new Conservative leader David Cameron had dressed his party up in green clothes and their new partners in government, the Liberal Democrats, had a respectable green legacy stretching back to the 19th century. Two years hence, what progress has been made? The environmental question, however, is not purely one concerning the political classes. On the contrary, in many respects, it is the extra-institutional actions of the environmentalist movement which have attracted most attention in Britain. The politicisation of the environment during the 1970s brought about novel forms of political action which soon left the traditional organisations behind, not to mention the political parties. The direct action tactics of ‘Greenpeace’ or ‘Friends of the Earth’, for example, shook up the old conservationist associations and, more recently, the radical environmentalists of ‘Earth First!’ have done the same to their forerunners. This one-day conference will broach this paradox of British society whereby concern for the environment still appears more clearly in civil society than in the political sphere. Papers will be in English (20 mins), focusing on social and political themes such as: - Discourse(s) & the environment: is there a discourse on political ecology and, if so, how does it differ from environmentalism? - Environment & parties: how far have the major parties taken the environmental question on board? What may have been a brake on this process or, indeed, may have facilitated it? - Environment & social movement: does an environmentalist/ecologist movement exist in Britain today? How is structured and what new forms of political expression are apparent? - Environment & behaviour: in relation to the environment, what kind of behavioural changes can be seen in British society?
Discipline scientifique : Sciences de l'Homme et Société

Lieu de la conférence
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