Comparing 1972 with 2009 Friends of the Earth Europe

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

What have than happened to the environmental movement since 1972 judged when mainly looking at Friends of the Earth. Already in 1972 FoE was central organisation in the international arena. The Conservation societies had given an open floor to new organisations as they gave no priority to the UN Conference on Human Environment while FoE established itself in Stockholm as an international organisation 1971 with the aim to influence the Summit. Below I list the claims I made about the environmental movement in 1972 and then the situation today.

1.We did have a lot of fun.

Certainly there is a lot of fun today as well. Maybe sometimes to much divided between actions with resources to be well organised and actions with very small resources and repressed by the police but the creativity and good vibration coming from many actions is great.

2. Over population was presented as a main if not the main global environmental problem by the dominant Anglo-American environmentalism.

Forget about it today with the exception of British discussions on climate change between Monbiot and those talking about the need to become very few on this earth. I was informed by my classmate Gunnar Widing in 1966 that the social and economic development in South Korea and Taiwan showed how population growth could be controlled by volunteer efforts in the third world. In country after country this is what happens. Since this early mentioning how social factors had a strong influence I never believed in alarmist discussions about population growth as a bomb that would explode. If we fight for social justice we will also be able to stabilise or even reduce the number of people, not by seeing people in the South as a threat.

3. US hippies, ”crowd control experts” from Hog Farm, a dozen of journalists from the same two newspapers that never wrote an article about the events, business think tanks and the official US delegation eagerly cooperated.

Nowadays business lobbyist are all over the place influencing every international environmental negotiation of importance and setting up think tanks to influence the genera public and media constantly. Different kind of provocateurs are still around.

4. The dominance of Anglo-American environmentalism with little concern for social justice was overwhelming from the outset but lost a lot of its glamour during the conference.

Today the environmental justice movement in the US and UK have changed this considerably and are sometimes ahead of other environmental groups in Northern countries. FOE have also changed drastically.

5. The third world was very poorly organized but in the last minute an alliance between young theosophists and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, (WILPF) was able to get funds from the government allowing 60 third world participants from the ad hoc Oi Committee to come to the alternative activities.

Today the third world is well organised both inside and outside FOEI. This can be seen as the strongest difference from 1972 until today.

6. Before the Stockholm conference many environmental organizations looked upon environmental problems as technical. Thus to save the rivers nuclear power was seen as an alternative to construction of dams.

FoE was from the beginning sceptical towards nuclear power and still is. Nuclear power did not become become part of the strategic plan for the whole of FOEE but many groups campaign on the issue as FoE Austria and it is seen as one of the false solutions that FOE oppose in the climate negotiations. Many other important issues was also excluded from the strategic plan because not sufficient number of national groups are committed to act now but the organisation is firmly opposed to nuclear power.

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