Peoples' movements and protests
The oldest popular movement for environmental protection and health is probably vegetarianism. It has thousands of years of roots backwards, especially in India, and plays a central role in politicizing everyday life even in today’s Western society by making societal issues possible to influence through the choice of way of life. Examples can be anything from vegans to more moderate carnivores.
Otherwise, the environmental movement has two different focuses: In the Nordic countries, the defense of nature and people against emissions. And in the South, the defense of the resource base against overexploitation.
As early as the beginning of the 19th century, Indian peasants defended forests and streams against the devastation of the English colonial power, and this defense then became an integral part of the struggle for independence. The defense of peasants and fishermen by what were once commons but after the thefts of colonial power are now often owned by the state or by transnational corporations is still at the core of the Southern environmental movement. This movement goes hand in hand with the trade union interests of farmers and fishermen and is conducted by trade unions and local communities, often in violent confrontation with developers. Brazilian rubber planters, Indian tree huggers, Kenyan tree planters and Sarawak indigenous peoples are among the most prominent environmental activists in the South.
Nature conservation as a modern expert movement also arose in the South, on Mauritius in the Indian Ocean in 1768, and the first organization was planned there two years later by opponents of slavery and scientists concerned about soil erosion and climate change caused by deforestation.
The environmental movements of the North has gone through many different phases.
The first European environmental movement, which also spread internationally, was dominated by women who used 19th-century mobilization methods to stop the hunt for birds to produce large quantities of plumes for the fashion industry. Today, this popular movement is carried on by animal welfare activists. Health protection was run primarily by the labor movement and its trade unions with demands for decent housing and healthy working conditions during the 19th century and beyond. Nature conservation was more entrenched among higher social classes and scientists who wanted to protect untouched nature and access to wildlife. The health movement in the north arose from an anti-bourgeois lifestyle movement among young people where hiking in nature was mixed with vegetarianism and sometimes interest in Eastern religion and philosophy.
In connection with the rapid growth of the chemical and energy society after 1945, nature conservation became a mass concern. The impact of environmental toxins in food laid the foundation for a fusion of the above movements around the previously unknown concept of ”environment”. From the beginning, the toxic emissions from industry and agriculture were worrying, where local action groups became important while the large mobilizations took place in existing organizations. Criticism grew in the 60s against the waste of resources and the deterioration of the urban environment, partly under the influence of the global popular movement mobilization for social justice. Confrontations increased and environmental organizations were formed. In the mid-1970s, conflicts against the prevailing development model increased with the mobilization towards nuclear power as a theme, mainly in Western Europe and North America but later spread to large parts of the world. From the 1980s, it is motoring that has been in focus in the North, where the environmental movement is dominated by local communities in interaction with youth movements. In the South, the environmental movement is instead dominated by farmers’ and fishermen’s organizations in defense of their industries against the monocultures of large corporations and states.
In the North, environmental movements have lost momentum since 1990, mainly because governments and companies have been successful in co-opting parts of them into NGOs for government advice and cracking down on the rest. In the South, this has not happened, so it is the South’s environmental movements that are globally leading today.