The such as the- publication of Rachel Carson’s book

The encompass for environmental concern has arguably had no real stance,
until the early 1960’s. Before this time, undesirable side-effects where seen
as natural consequences of economic and social progression and thus, rivers and
atmospheres where assumed to have an infinite capacity for waste and dirt.
Japan and the USA as leading industrialised countries where often idolised for
their growth, and so denial towards the extent of the problem was a societal norm,
giving environmental problems no real scope on the political agenda. Consequences
of industrial use such as smog, radioactive fallout and pesticides
contaminating, blanketing and destroying the crops and atmospheres of major
cities rapidly became impossible to ignore, and soon provoked a turning point
in the emergence of an environmentalist movement and up rise of concerned
reactions such as the- publication of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Springs’ in
1962 for example. In the UK, political orientation towards the environment did
not feature within the manifestos of political parties until the 1970’s (Godfrey, 2012). Similarly, in the USA, exorbitant
human use and the eventual deterioration of the environment that followed, lead
to a compulsory turning point in the rise of environmental awareness by the
late 1960’s.

This essay will therefore argue that, just as the deterioration of the
environment lead to a compulsory launch in the rise of political awareness
during the 1960’s and 1970’s, so does the constant previous and contemporary
concern for environmental problems continue to mount pressure on governments
and societies; and give rise to the environment as a political issue.

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To begin, in accordance with a chronological version of events is the
industrial and scientific revolution of the 18th and 19th
century, or as otherwise referred to by scholars as a period where the amount
of “industrialisation, human activity and pollution” … “threatened
irreversible changes on an unprecedented scale to the world’s climate” -Clive
Pointing, A Green History of the World, 1991. (Harrison
and Boyd, 2003:275).

The industrial revolution began a process
based on ignorant false assumption. Fossil fuels and other scarce resources,
where assumed to be infinite and thus, subject to the process of agricultural
industrialised demand for food and raw materials. As highlighted by Noel
Castree human beings often regard ‘the environment and products of it’ as
‘non-human’ and thus inferior (Castree, N.
2003:287). As a result of this, as it was done prior to the 19th
century, environmental issues are often easy to be ignored. Within this context,
however, the defects of exorbitant manufacturing and industrial growth or as Rousseau argues the ‘corrupting
unnaturalness of civilisation’ (Barry,2005:55) where creating noticeable global
defects in the form of environmental tragedies. Examples include the
Seveso disaster (India,1984) and Chernobyl nuclear explosion (USSR,1986) during the current time and additional negative impacts from
nuclear gasses, and motor vehicles that would abet health problems at a time in
the future. As a result of this, it soon became
necessary that such limits to growth and uncertainties surrounding
industrialisation be investigated and thus, a new realm of attention towards
the environment as a political issue began.

In the USA, chemical pollution was catalysis
to one of the earliest examples of response toward environmental problems. Legislative
action toward air pollution in St. Louis, USA, 1876 (Paehlke 1989:23) was implemented
in response to poisoned rivers, extinct species, destructed rain forests, and the
subsequent overpopulation (Harrison
and Boyd, 2003:276) that followed. Within the UK, similar concern for air
pollution, initiated the implementation of the 1863 Alkaline Act. In addition
to this, existence of additional environmental concerns, triggered further
response towards the environment as a political issue. Public health concerns, beginning
from general and industrial waste disposal, triggered the Poor Law Commission
in 1834. Regarding sanitation and preservation of landscape and habits- the
Commons, Open Spaces, and Footpaths Preservation society was created in 1865),
and to settle grievances relating to the quality of human surroundings and
impact upon health followed the Torren’s Artisans and Labourers Dwellings Act
of 1868 (Godfrey 2012).


By the late 19th century
developments in ecological science, public awareness, and emergence of
environmental lobbyists, saw the erosion of ignorance toward the matter and
progression of vivid interest in political response toward environmental
problems and directorial provision for dealing with them. The emergence of
pressure groups not only inflated political attention toward the issue but also
represented a growing middle-class interest toward the protection of wildlife,
wilderness and natural resources (Lowe and Goyder 1983:30) and as such, the
scope for environmental concern within the realm of politics was exaggerated by
the emergence of nature protecting groups and non-government organisations toward
the latter on the 19th and early 20th century. Several
leading pressure groups such as the Sierra Club USA, Royal Society for
Protection of Birds UK, and Naturschutzbund Deutchland Germany (Carter, 2001)
originate from this period and represent a shift in “historically, radical and
transformative elements of environmental movements and eco political thought”. As
articulated by Bluhdorn such aspects have been “blunted” and “reconfigured by
comprehensive cultural change” (Blühdorn and Welsh 2007:186)
and thus, abet the wider effect that saw a “modernisation-induced value and
culture shift” and gradual accumulation in “market-driven, industrial, and
growth-oriented” (Kenis, A. and Lievens, M. 2014:540) policies
effecting various environmental issues. Such strategies
include regulatory methods toward pollution, creation of parks and overall
introduction toward modern environmentalism.


The existence of modern environmentalism
indifferently, to preservationist attitudes prior to this period, advocated the
environment as a political matter complete with its own ideology and political
movement (Jacobs 1997:2). The main stance, advocated by ‘greener’ versions of
the modern market model such as, Green Growth (OECD, 2010),
The advocacy of ecological modernisation (Spaargaren and Mol 1992,
Mol and Spaargaren, 2000:340) and the Green economy (UNEP 2011, 2012) attempted to embrace
the environmental crisis as a serious threat to human existence, while
“refraining from any fundamental questioning of existing social systems”
(Bluhdorn:2013:25). A perception, yet again that has been nurtured by the
existence of environmental eco-disasters of the time such as: the oil spillages
from the wrecked Torrey Canyon Tanker in 1967, and Blow out of an oil platform
in Santa Barbara California and mercury poisoning of Minamarta Bay in Japan
1969 (Carter, 2001:4).


The continual existence of environmental
problems, overarching shadow of limits to growth and ‘consequences of
population increase encouraged people to embrace a radical transformation in
the values and priorities within society and politics by advocating thought in
global terms about the environment’ (Ehrlich 1968:45; Meadows et al 1972:25). Bluhdorn
makes parallel analysis to this idea where he argues “recent shift in eco
political discourses have their counterpart in simultaneous shifts in
democratic politics” (Bluhdorn 2013:16). Modern environmentalism, therefore,
was influenced by general revolt in social protest and broader ‘politics of
affluence’ during this time, evident particularly during the 1970’s when the
formation of NGO’s (non-government organisations’) created the demanding
mechanism necessary for political and law making attention toward environmental


Such efforts where not only successful in triggering
the largest environmental demonstration in history-Earth Day on 22nd
of April 1970, but also instigated the set up of government ministerial
agencies responsible for introducing new legislation to protect the environment,
and establish environmentalism as part of the international agenda; stimulated
by examination of global environmental problems on human health at the 1972 UN
Stockholm conference.


As it did, during the early 1960’s and
continual period after, the existence of environmental problems, provided the
necessary components for monumental environmental movements in politics. Within
the UK for example, the “changing attitudes and unpredictable responses” of the
Conservative and Labour Party earned detailed analysis for their response and
mark on the “ongoing process of greening political parties” (Godfrey 2012). The
existence of new political ideas and attitudes towards the environment on this
scale aided the rise of mass environmentalism within society and creation of new
policy agendas or as defined by Robinson as “the translation of
ideas, attitudes, motivations, symbols and ways of thinking from the
constituent cells of the environmental movement to the mainstream political
parties in terms of rhetoric, policy and ideology” (Robinson
1992:74), and thus, scholarly and non-academic studies have both,
concluded around the fact that in comparison to other political parties, green
voters are more so younger, better educated, less likely to attend church and
more likely to hold public sector and/or white-collar jobs (Muller 2005:43).


Deriving contemporary evidence from the
previous UK prime ministers conference speech in 2005, where Tony Blair states
“global warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger or
split into opposing factors of it”. Such statements are largely significant to
the realm of modern environmentalism as not only do they represent the substantial
extent to which environmental problems have become politically mainstream, they
also justify a positive revolutionary change in the political culture and
values of industrialised countries. Despite the undeniable progression of the
environment as part of the political agenda, as afore mentioned by Castree,
several scholarly contributions have questioned the depoliticising nature of
ecological modernisation as within it, human beings still tend to deem the
environment as an entity ‘incompatibly separate to human beings and thus,
ambiguously thought of as something ‘out there’ that surrounds us (Kenis, A.
and Lievens, M. 2014:540) as apposed to apart of us. Within this approach,
Swyngedouw (2007, 2010a) argues environmental problems are so easily depoliticised
because they lack a dominant subject of change. For example, under the subject
of oppression, equal rights and struggle, change can be easily identified and
accountable to women, ethnic minorities, or labour workers, and thus they are
respectively the first to speak out. Indifferently, environmentalism, due to
its nature, lacks this ability- and so, although a subject now embraced within
politics, such characteristics make the political nature of some events
insignificant, inferior and therefore, hard to contest.


Under this stance, some may contest, in
support of the question, and argue that, the existence of environmental
problems in contemporary day exerts a compulsory collective concern amongst
human beings. As a result, environmental questions and research lends easily to
a discourse that suggests “we are all in this together” and must cooperate,
create partnerships and reach consensus (Kenis, A. and Lievens, M. (2014:535).
As agreed by Swyngedouw 2007, if everyone together is the subject of environmental
questions, bettered values toward nature are the only result.


Regardless, of policy adjustments, innovative
government instruments such as eco taxes and evidential development in
environmental political concern- the environment remains a uncontrollable and
deeply complexed issue. It’s significance and progression as part of the
political agenda however, cannot be disputed and much commendation for this
growth can be attributed to not only the existence of environmental problems
but enlightened and bettered human understanding of these problems and their
detrimental effects.

It is also important by this retrospect, to
consider the character of democracy in depoliticising environmental topics.
Scholarly contributions together with public opinion have observed that, individuals
within a democracy can often feel, “isolated and lacking in influence or
control over the government” (Porritt and Winner 1988:5). Given this, perspective it is important to realise that what
remains to be disputed is not, the political significance of environmental
issues at the hand of environmental issues, but the extent and range of
extra-parliamentary strategies available to all members of society to fix these
problems, remain green, outside of trying to achieve change by just simply ‘voting
green’ (Young,


In contemporary day, in comparison to the
cooperative vision that began the politicisation of environmentalism, the
existence of environmental problems provides basis for political division and
debate. For example, in the USA 2015, Democrat Barak Obama approved the
expansion of Artic drilling, whilst Republican Hillary Clinton openly opposed
it, stressing the term “common sense” as the
main attribute in justifying immediate attention toward environmental issues;
in comparison to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who proclaimed that “accepted
science” proves climate change is a “religion being forced upon American
public” at the hands of “monied interests” (Black, 2016). In addition to
this, the existence of climate change for some, continues to exert expanded
influence and ways of thinking within governments. Acting a constant reminder,
global warming clarifies the possible planet changing detrimental effects of
human impact. As a concept the implications have had time to perpetuate through
society, ethos and regimes; to the extent that in modern society we are most
commonly concerned with “mitigation” and adaptation” as pragmatic ways of and
managing and handling the implications.


In conclusion,
despite some disparities within the argument for environmental concern; the long-vetted
politicising process of environmentalism has revealed an imposing, broad and
powerful environmental political lobby that without doubt, in conjunction with pressing
environmental issues, can admit full responsibility for its contribution in achieving
political existence within environmentalism. The ecological narrative during
the 1960’s, paved the foundation for non-government organisations, science, and
green parties that have worked to permanently link environmental concerns of
then and now, to pending political innuendos of the future. So much so, that as
a result, politics is now an imperative part of the process in observing and
improving the worlds environmental health. 


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