Ecological Movement






Ecological Movement

            The uncontrolled and systematic pollution of the environment, due to unchecked man pursuit to exploit natural resources, has resulted to the emergence of the philosophy and ideology of environmentalism. Environmentalism can be defined as a social movement that aims to protect the environment from adverse human induced effects through conservation and pollution abatement measures. One of the new environmental social movements to emerge championing environmental protection issues is the ecology movement. The movement was born in the late 1960’s by Rachel Carlos (Miller, 2002). This report studies the emergence of the movement as a social movement, the philosophy behind it and the theories relevant to it.

Ecological movement as a social movement, which gears to influence the political and social-economic system through consumer education, activism, lobbying and demonstrations aimed at preservation and protection of the ecosystems. Its agenda has been changing depending on the global situation. Initially in the sixties and seventies, it was involved in the push for disarmament of all nuclear weapons, acid rain in the 1980’s, deforestation and ozone layer depletion in the 1990’s and of recent climate change and global warming (Miller, 2002). In addition, they address global concerns like species extinction and they support like-minded environmental groups. Of recent, it has diversified its ways of championing its cause. There is a political wing headed by the green parties/movement, which applies radical measures to preserve the environment.

The history of modern environmental movements can be traced back in the nineteenth century. However, mass movements with wider followings can be traced after the Second World War. During this period two movements existed; the preservationist who pushed for land and nature to be separated and the conservationist demanded for the management of natural resources for the overall benefit of humanity (Miller, 2002). The Stockholm conference (United Nations Conference on the Environment) in 1972 marked the first ever-international discussions on global environment. The Stockholm declarations and the Rio declarations, twenty years later, formed the basis of the current international environmental law through which the movements base their authority (Buttel, 2004).

The emergence of environmentalism as a social movement gave birth to environmental sociology aimed at introducing biophysical environment into conventional sociology, by looking into the root causes of environmental issues. Hence, most theories proceed to analyze the social forces behind environmental degradation, which it is viewed to be an intrinsic repercussion of the 20th century industrial revolution. Some of these key theories include Schnaiberg theory of treadmill of production, the urban growth machine postulated by Logon and Molotch, Catton and Dunlap theory on age of exurban and dominant social paradigm, Murphy’s theory of the irrationality of capitalist –industrial rationality and Schwartz’s theory on moral activation. (Buttel, 2004).

The moral norm-activation theory by Schwartz’s (1977) best gives a sociological analysis of the ecological movement. It argues that most environmental movements depend on degree of agreeability of given personal traits between the members, belief that the issues addressed are under threat and the belief that actions commenced by the party will restore order. This theory stresses on personal responsibility to ensure one’s capacity to avoid threats or protect the endangered organisms. (Buttel, 2004). This is evident by the members of

The ecological movement depends on public opinion to remain vibrant and overcome inertia. Research on new social movements indicates that the behavior and attitudes of the public determine the success of social movements. The value-belief-norm (VBN) theory explains the role of public support on environmental movements by applying the principles of environmentalism and social psychology. VBN theory defines activists as those movement members committed to the cause with the sole aim of influencing public policy (Buttel, 2004). However, the theory argues that environmental activism does not automatically lead to policy changes, hence it advocates for modern environmental strategies that are more pragmatic and realistic.

Social movements depend on the total commitment by the members to participate in its key duties of activism. However, less intense commitment by members is necessary as it reduces antagonism with the authorities (Miller, 2002). This has been achieved by the ecological movement by forming branches like green peace to use international diplomacy to address its issues. Some of these low commitment active membership initiatives include influencing public opinion by writing columns in print media and organizing fund raisings for the movements.

The ecological movement has achieved relative success in consumer awareness and education on important matters as global warming and climate change. However, there is a growing belief the movement is facing a crisis on lack of direction. The seem not to acknowledge the role of social problems in ecological issues. They only stress on economic aspects to be the main culprit in environmental degradation. The key issues of population, level of education and poverty rates are ignored limiting the comprehensive understanding of the issues the address.

In summary, the success of the ecological movement depends on commitment by its members and an efficient organization structure that communicates its “feelings” to the public. Since the movement depends on appeal to personal norms to recruit members, thus it should not profess a radical stand in its programs in the process locking out new members.


Buttel, F. (May 01, 2004). Environmental sociology and the explanation of environmental reform. Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, 32, 2.)

Miller, Jeffrey G. (2002). A Generational History of Environmental Law and Its Grand Themes: A Near Decade of Garrison Lectures. DigitalCommons@Pace.


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