Nav: Home

Researchers investigate environmental movements and neoliberalism

August 22, 2016

SEATTLE -- The dynamics of global environmentalism, ranging from indigenous people's rights to the reliance on non-governmental organizations, have been marked by a resurgence in environmental movements that more aggressively resist natural resource extraction, according to two University of Kansas (KU) researchers.

"Environmental protestors are now being taken more seriously by environmental policymakers," said Brock Ternes, a KU doctoral student of sociology.

This shift likely has occurred because many activists have become frustrated at the inadequacy of environmental policies, said Ternes and co-researcher David Cooper, also a KU doctoral student in sociology. They found that since the 1970s, many large environmental organizations have tended to adopt reformist policies -- typically identified as neoliberal -- that tend to focus more on economic expansion and technological advancement as a solution to climate change and other environmental issues.

"The unique irony right now is we're faced with all sorts of environmental threats, including climate change and a host of other issues. Yet at the same time we seem to be the least capable of responding well to these challenges, as a society and through political institutions," Cooper said. "One of the big arguments is that many environmental activist organizations have become corporatized in the way they think and behave, so they are more focused on reproducing the status quo than trying to change the way we run our carbon-based systems and move off of oil."

For example, many non-governmental organizations now have hundred-million-dollar budgets. As a result, these agencies have aligned with corporations that depend on fossil fuel extractions. Furthermore, these organizations tend to view technological improvements as a "silver bullet" to solve environmental consumption problems without further changes to the underlying economic and social system. This perspective favors the current political-economic climate that protects the profits of fossil fuel interests, Ternes said.

"Technical efficiencies are going to play an important role, and investing heavily in renewable energy is pivotal for reducing emissions and pollution, but many environmental activists would argue we still aren't making the big enough changes. Challenging the economic order, neoliberalism, remains an essential step for various environmentalists," Ternes said.

Still, recent events and more outside-the-box activist responses to disasters such as the Gulf oil spill or the movement opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline also could be indications that many who do care deeply about environmental issues are taking matters into their own hands, the researchers said.

"It's not necessarily that the public support has declined, but rather it's just been more challenging to stay effective at getting these protections on the political table," Ternes said. "Protesting or demanding serious action will be integral to the formation and passage of bold environmental policies or initiatives."

Outcries within the realm of civil society are going to be increasingly important to ensure that policymakers are held accountable to protect citizens from environmental problems and enforce such policies, the researchers said.

"Grassroots environmental groups are becoming louder, more attentive, engaging, and they're asking for bigger changes in order to avoid these catastrophes in the future," Ternes said.

Ternes and Cooper will present their findings at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
-end-
Papers presented at the ASA Annual Meeting are typically working papers that have not yet been published in peer-reviewed journals.

University of Kansas

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.