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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2023

Emmanuel Karagiannis
Affiliation:
King's College London
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Summary

The modern environmental movement was born in the United States and Western Europe in the late 1960s to early 1970s, although its roots lie in the anti-industrial romanticism of the nineteenth century. The environmental movement challenged the postwar capitalist orthodoxy and social conformity. Environmentalists criticised dominant ideas about the relationship between humans and non-humans, the socio-economic organisation of Western societies, and the essence of economic growth. Nature and its beings were not to be treated merely as resources for human advancement. In this climate of fierce anti-capitalism, the movement developed intellectual and activist components that produced a new vocabulary (for example, ‘biodiversity’, ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainability’).

The first generation of environmentalists focused on the use of nuclear energy for both peaceful and military purposes, the extinction of species, air and water pollution, and the overexploitation of resources. More specifically, university students, devout Christians and community activists came together to save the environment. However, the movement gradually developed into a multi-issue coalition of groups. During the early 1980s, the first parties were established in Western Europe to promote a green agenda.

Today, environmentalism can be defined as the promotion of values, attitudes and policies aimed at reaching an accommodation between human needs and the limits of the natural environment. Environmentalism as an ideology has included both ecocentric and anthropocentric views and ethics. The former have sought a preservationist approach to nature that centres on care for biodiversity and wilderness protection, while the latter have supported a conservationist approach that focuses on urban pollution and social justice.

Currently, the environmental movement is divided into different sub-movements. Environmental justice is a spin-off from the movement focusing on underprivileged communities which have experienced racism, exploitation and ecological degradation. In effect, it is preoccupied with the socio-economic consequences of the environmental crisis. The conservation sub-movement calls for the protection of natural areas from pollution and economic development. Advocates of animal rights form another sub-movement seeking to end the exploitation and suffering of animals. While the environmental movement is highly heterogeneous, its sub-movements share a vision of a world in which humans and non-humans can live harmoniously in a protected and sustainable environment.

Type
Chapter
Information
Why Islamists Go Green
Politics, Religion and the Environment
, pp. 1 - 17
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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