Is "Nature” Our Motivation?

19.03.2013

The environmental movement must broadly mobilize for a new, green society that people can believe in. And this must be done in a way that shows that this would be a better and more viable society than the one we currently have.

by: Erik Martiniussen, journalist and climate policy blogger


Norwegian environmental organizations cooperate well.
 

This is my experience, having been a part of the environmental movement, and having observed it from the sidelines for a decade. Some examples: A united environmental movement secured the protection of the Trillemarka-Rollagsfjell nature site, a united environmental movement blocked plans to develop thorium energy in Norway, a united environmental movement successfully pushed for a new climate agreement in the Norwegian Parliament in 2012, and a united environmental movement is opposing oil drilling off Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja. 

These are just a few examples of cases in which environmental organizations have stood together and emerged victorious. The same examples illustrate that environmental organizations have political influence in individual cases.

However, winning individual cases is no longer enough. The complete destruction of biodiversity and the climate is so imminent, that avoiding this fate demands a completely new form of political mobilization. If environmental organizations want to spearhead a mobilization of this kind, they must dare to think big. 

Some major challenges: What kind of society do we want, how can we achieve this, and who is standing in our way? If the democratic environmental movement could agree on any of these points, much would already have been achieved. 

However, not everyone agrees with this strategy. Erik Solheim, the primer Norwegian environmental minister, recently recommended that the environmental movement should focus more on ”nature”. He received support from Per Espen Stoknes, who suggested in Putsj magazine that the environmental movement should create “public enthusiasm for biodiversity”. That sounds fine. But will further enthusiasm for “nature” necessarily create a mobilization for political change? I know many people who love nature, but who fundamentally disagree with the environmental movement’s perspectives on society. Jens Stoltenberg is one of them. He is constantly skiing and biking in the countryside, and claims to love nature. Nevertheless, his policies go against what most environmental organizations stand for. Will he be a better environmental politician if environmental organizations tell him that he should love nature even more?

Let us look at it from another angle. What if the environmental movement followed Stoknes’ strategy, and joined forces to launch an extensive campaign to cultivate a love of nature in the general public. Would that automatically lead to the population being opposed to large road developments, or being less enthusiastic about Norwegian oil extraction? I don’t think so. 

When the labour movement achieved the eight-hour working day, they did not do so by increasing the popularity of workers. They accomplished this through unyielding political mobilization and by showing that the eight-hour day was better for productivity, for people, and for society. 

If the environmental movement wants similar results, it must broadly mobilize for a new, green society that people can believe in. And this must be done in a way that shows that this would be a better and more viable society than the one we currently have. 

The environmental movement has always used nature as an argument. They should continue to do so, as it is important, not least in individual cases such as Lofoten and Vesterålen. Yet if it cannot at the same time win the bigger discussion on which direction society as a whole should take, the oil industry will continue to eat away at the rest of the continental shelf – even if the environmental movement wins Lofoten and Vesterålen.