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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:The birth of Environmentalism

scene:Protest groups

Environmental protest groups
Since the 1960s the general public have become increasingly aware of environmental concerns. While the publication of Silent Spring triggered strong reactions in North America and Europe, inspirational leaders pioneered effective methods of non-violent protest in other parts of the world. Environmental protest groups have become an important way for people to cooperate to make their voices heard by governments and industry.
Nowadays there are protest groups all over the world. Some, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have worldwide membership and tackle a variety of global issues. At the other end of the scale, small groups of community activists campaign for their local environment.
Images with the text:
The Newbury Bypass protest.
Explore protest groupsThe Netherlands: Greenpeace
In 1971 a small boat of volunteers and journalists sailed into Amchitka, a tiny island north of Alaska where the US Government was conducting underground tests of nuclear bombs.
Amchitka is one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions and many feared the blast would trigger a tremor. It was also the refuge of 3000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife.
Even though the boat was intercepted before it got to Amchitka, the journey sparked a flurry of public interest. The US still detonated the bomb but the protestors had got their message across. Nuclear testing on Amchitka ended that same year and the island was later declared a bird sanctuary.
The group of protestors that brought the plight of Amchitka to the world's attention were the founding members of Greenpeace.
Greenpeace is now a massive international organisation with headquarters in the Netherlands. It has offices in 41 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and boasts 2.8 million supporters worldwide.
Greenpeace focuses on global threats to the planet's biodiversity and environment.
It campaigns to eliminate climate change, whaling, genetic engineering, the nuclear threat and toxic chemicals. It fights to protect the oceans and ancient forests and to encourage sustainable trade.
As part of their work they expose environmental law-breakers and challenge governments and corporations when they fail to live up to their mandate to safeguard the environment.
As in Amchitka, Greenpeace activists often 'bear witness' to environmental violations - a non-violent form of protest with its roots in the tradition of the Quakers.

Images with the text:
Greenpeace logo.
The Amchitka team.
Greenpeace boat, Greenpeace have a long history of campaigning out at sea.
USA: Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth was founded in the United States in 1969 by David Brower. It was Brower who coined the phrase 'think globally, act locally', the organisation's founding motto.
In 1971, Friends of the Earth International was formed when organisations from France, Sweden, Britain and the USA joined forces.
Thirty years later Friends of the Earth had become one of the largest environmental groups in the world, represented by groups in 68 countries and with over one million supporters.
The mission of the member groups is to campaign internationally, nationally and locally to protect the environment and create sustainable societies.
They are united by the common conviction that environmentally sustainable development requires both strong grassroots activism and effective national and international campaigning.
Over the years they have fought many battles with government and industry and have achieved some notable successes including bans on ozone-destroying CFCs, reduced trade in rainforest timber and increased support for cleaner energy technologies.

Images with the text:
Friends of the Earth logo.
Friends of the Earth campaign poster.
Friends of the Earth campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament, London.
Friends of the Earth campaign poster.
Brazil: Chico Mendes and the Amazon rainforest
On 22 December 1988, the rubber tapper, union leader and environmental activist Chico Mendes was murdered with a gunshot to the chest.
Mendes was born in Acre, Brazil, part of the Amazon rainforest and an area of remarkable biodiversity. He grew up in a family of rubber tappers, known in Brazil as seringueiros.
Seringueiros apply sloping cuts to the bark of rubber trees and collect the sap which flows slowly out. The extraction process is a sustainable form of harvesting forest resources which causes no permanent damage to the trees.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the rubber tappers of Acre increasingly came into conflict with cattle ranchers and mining companies. These wealthy landowners and powerful corporations planned to create highways, pasture land and strip mines, making a quick profit but irrevocably destroying the forest as well as the rubber tappers' livelihood.
Chico Mendes decided to stand up to them. He galvanised his fellow workers into campaigning to protect their rights and their homeland.
The tappers used an innovative form of protest - the empaté or stand-off. Men, women and children joined hands and stood between the chainsaws and the trees. Unsurprisingly they encountered a great deal of opposition both from industrialists and corrupt government officials.
In 1988 Mendes was assassinated on the orders of two landowners, father and son Darly and Darcy Alves de Silva. His death provoked a huge outcry and brought the plight of the seringueiros and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest to the world's attention.
Images with the text:
Chico Mendes (1944-1988).
A Brazilian seringueiro tapping a rubber tree.
Mahogany logging operations in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil.
Poster demanding action against Mendes' alleged killers.
India: The Narmada Dam and Arundhati Roy
One of the most important social issues in contemporary India is the construction of dams on the River Narmada. The Indian government plans to build 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams to harness the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries.
The proponents of the dams argue that they would provide large amounts of water and electricity which are desperately required for the purposes of development.
The project's opponents dispute this. They have banded together to form a protest group called Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) - Save the Narmada Movement. The Booker-Prize winning Indian author Arundhati Roy has become the international face of their struggle and helped to attract worldwide publicity.
The NBA argues that the dam construction involves the large scale abuse of human rights. They say that over 200 villages will be submerged, displacing many poor communities (mainly tribal peoples and dalits - India's 'untouchable' caste) who will not receive adequate compensation.
The campaigners also point to the fact that previous megadam projects have devastated riverine systems and rendered destitute large numbers of people while delivering only a fraction of their promised benefits. They believe that water and energy could be provided through alternative technologies which are socially fair and environmentally sustainable.
Images with the text:
Women have been at the forefront of many of the struggles against dam construction.
Writer Arundhati Roy - the international face of the Save the Narmada Movement.
Image of traditional houses which will be destroyed if the dam goes ahead.
A submerged house in the village of Jalsindh, Madhya Pradesh.
Map of the proposed dams of the Narmada Valley.
Nigeria: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ogoniland and oil'Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues' Ken Saro-Wiwa, the gallows, 10 November 1995
The Ogoni people live in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, one of the most densely populated areas of Africa. Their society is based on subsistence agriculture and fishing.
In 1958 the Shell oil company struck oil in Nigeria. By the early 21st century, oil accounted for over 90% of Nigeria's export earnings and some 80% of government revenue. The land of the Ogoni people, known as Ogoniland, is the source of over 90% of Nigeria's oil.
For the Ogoni, the environmental and social costs of oil exploitation have been painfully high.
Until the early 1990s, numerous oil spills severely damaged farmlands, fishing grounds and drinking water sources. Furthermore, the large flares that burn off gas from the oil extraction process were often situated near Ogoni villages. The flares produced soot, creating acid rain and causing respiratory problems. While Shell made vast profits, unemployment and poverty in the Ogoni communities soared.
The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) was founded in 1991. Its first president was the Nigerian writer and poet Ken Saro-Wiwa. The group demanded environmental, social and economic justice for the Ogoni people.
In 1993 Shell's operations received the protection of the Nigerian military which killed, detained and displaced thousands of citizens.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP leaders were imprisoned by a Special Tribunal on a trumped-up murder charge. They were executed on a hastily built gallows on 10 November 1995.
The atrocity resulted in an international outcry. Shell has since ceased drilling for oil in the region. However, frequent leakages from abandoned pipelines continue to damage the environment. The Ogoni cause has been taken up by many Ogoni living in exile including Ken Saro-Wiwa's two sons.
Images with the text:
Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995).
Burning oil from a leaking pipeline in Ogoniland.
Oil pollution leaking from a pipeline in Ogoniland.
Shell's oil-bearing pipes running alongside a road in Nigeria.
UK: The Newbury Bypass (The battle against the road)
In 1990 the local government of Newbury, a typical market town in middle England, decided to build a bypass. They believed that the new road would ease traffic congestion through the town, reducing delays and pollution.
Their decision sparked a huge controversy and provoked Britain's largest ever anti-road protest.
The protest transcended traditional class barriers and united the unlikeliest of allies: hippies, pensioners, aristocrats, celebrities, businesspeople, historians and conservationists joined forces to support a common cause.
The campaigners argued that the bypass would wreck huge swathes of beautiful countryside but would not solve the regional traffic problems.
The planned road would plough through three Sites of Special Scientific Interest and a number of local nature reserves, endangering wildlife and polluting rivers. It would also damage the historical site of the First Battle of Newbury, ruin an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the North Wessex Downs), and pass through twelve sites of archaeological importance.
The campaign raged from 1994 to 1998. It took many forms - from mass letter writing and European lobbying to non-violent direct action and criminal damage. Some protestors impeded the bulldozers by building camps along the proposed route and chaining themselves to trees.
By the time the road opened in November 1998, more than 1,000 people had been arrested and the policing bill had soared from £1 million to £26 million.
Eight months after the road opened, a report revealed that congestion in the town centre had not been significantly reduced. Although the protestors lost the battle, campaigners continue to highlight the extra traffic and development the controversial bypass has brought to Newbury.

Images with the text:
Pictures of the Newbury Bypass protest.

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