Friends of the Earth Sweden becomes main stream

Tord Björk | Environmental movements,Friends of the Earth,Via Campesina | Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

In earlier days FoE Sweden seemed odd to many FoE groups in Europe. We were closer to FoE groups in the third world with our strong emphasis of being a popular movement and cooperating with other popular movement and with our opposition to EU. Popular or social movement was an odd concept to many who rather called themselves NGO. More federalism in the EU was seen as a main strategy for solving environmental problems.

Now the strategic document states that EU:s influence globally by promoting strongly neoliberal models is a threat to the environment and the earlier rather uncritical attitude to EU is gone. Of course EU is there and should be addressed when there is a need on environmental and linked issues, but there is now a lot more realism in the relationship with EU.

Demonstrators at the EU-Summit in Gothenburg 2001 when FoE Sweden and FoE Europe made a break-through in cooperation between anti-EU FoE groups and Pro-EU FoE groups ending with FoE Sweden, FoE Europe and FoE International sitting in a panel together wih Attac in the first videolinked direct discussion with EU politicians at an EU-Summit.

The real radical change comes in the way FoEE looks upon itself. When being part of the EU system is less attractive membership in FOEI have been seen as more important. And FOEi have decided to become a social movement and furthermore sees Via Campesina as a main partner. FoE Sweden even have ”popular movement cooperation” in its statutes and have long time experience in expanding from a small organisation into a core organisation in large coalitions or during Summits. We also have a closer relationship with Via Campesina than probably any other organisation and cooperate often with small farmers, recently to a high degree at ESF in Malmö 2008 were also Via Campesina Europe became an important cooperation partner.

Joint Via Campesina and FoE youth camp at ESF 2008

Now the participants at tthe FOEEAGM were supposed to sit and answer on questions as what is a social movement and how can we develop towards such a way of acting as well as questions concerning cooperation with Via Campesina. FoE Sweden suddenly became fairly alone in living up to cooperating with Via Campesina in Europe and feeling at home with questions concerning what is a social movement.

It was a pleasant feeling to become main stream. It is quite much easier when the whole movement goes in the same direction, at least in words. To mainly be an opponent in an organisation is not necessarily bad but not interesting as a role all the time. Even better was the sense that FOEE really is in a process asking itself what should be its role in the future and its main cooperation partners.  It is clear that it will not be an easy discussion, not for FoE Sweden either. There were a lot of uncertainty and quick changes from a position to another. But anyway steps have been taken and I believe FOEE never will be the same again, and hopefully not FoE Swedem either.- We live in new tomes and to address the environmental issue in a more social way as well as see the need in change through social movements rather than the routines set up by governments in your own country, Brussels or at Summits or the routines of the market is less and less an option. When FOE decided to become a social movement rather than an NGO it was a historic decision and FOEE is seriously starting to follow the decision. It will take time, but the journey have started.

Becoming a social movement will necessarily need more of a general vision for were FOEE is heading. Now the work is structured almost only according to limited campaigns, both in the strategic plan and concerning budget. The kind of common purpose for the movement as a whole is somewhat missing. There is a need for both a cosmology, ways of organizing and technology that challenges the present society if we should be able to solve the ecological and social crisis. And the three are strongly interlinked. This was according to movement intellectuals as Andy Jamison and Ron Eyerman once the strength of the environmental movement which any movement needs to be able to bring about change. Some steps to regain that strength has now been taken, interestingly even at the global level. We will see what will follow. As someone who was nick named grandfather of the the environmental movement by activists of EYFA and A SEED already 1990 it will certainly be interesting to see how the movement will develop in the future.

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