Environmental Movements - Lake Harding Association

Environmental Movements

Environmental Movements

By Micah Moen 0 Comment September 11, 2019

Governments serve as the structural framework for
the functioning of most societies and have a wide range of responsibilities. While there are many types of governments, they are concerned about similar
national issues from the economy to education to defense to health. Outside
of the government itself, so many other groups influence society. This includes
corporations, the media, nonprofits, clinics, lobbying groups, and the people
themselves. These groups have a lot of influence but instead of representing a
particular country or state or physical area, they often go beyond borders and
represent a set of values or an ideology. As a result, these groups are called
non-state actors because they are separate from governments or states. Even though these non-state actors aren’t affiliated with, directed by, or funded
through the government, they have a lot of power to facilitate change. Keep in
mind that a non-state actor in one country may actually be controlled by
the government in a different country However, while non-state actors can be
influenced by the government, they still have their own agendas. This can be
clearly illustrated through the role played by non-state actors in various
social movements. A social movement is when a group of people and/or
organizations work towards a common goal. These goal are oriented around social change
over a long period of time Often, the social movement doesn’t come from within
the government but rather from outside of the government and this is where the non-state
actors come in. Unfortunately things aren’t always straight forward. Sometimes
the non-state actor involved is working with the social movement to promote
change. Other times the non-state actor is what
the people of a particular social movement are demanding action against. We will look at various examples around the world of both of these cases. Sometimes called the ecology movement, the environmental movement has its origins in the response to the Industrial
Revolution of the mid 19th century. Due to increased amounts of air pollution
from coal, the urban middle class pressured the government to create
environmental laws. The first of them, Britain’s Alkali Acts, was passed in 1863. Since then, groups have been forming around a wide range of specific areas
within the environmental movement from wildlife conservation to rural
preservation to anti-nuclear activism to prioritizing sanitation to controlling
pesticides. Specifically in the US, the environmental movement took off after
World War II when many environmental disasters alerted people to the
consequences of their actions. Today, the environmental movement is
still just as diverse. It focuses on issues that have become buzzwords in today’s
society. This includes global climate change, acid rain,
GMOs, ozone depletion and so on. However, while the efforts of the environmental
movement are cemented in various laws enacted by the government, in many ways
the paths to those laws were shaped by non-state actors like NGOs, advocacy
groups, and protests organized by ordinary citizens. Let’s take a closer
look at an example in Ecuador. This case has a long and complex history spanning
many countries and decades. It officially starts in 1993 when a group of
Ecuadorian citizens filed a class-action lawsuit in US federal court against
Texaco (an American oil company). A year later in 1994, a group of Peruvian
citizens do the same. Their claim is that Texaco’s oil operations between 1964 and
1992 (namely drilling in the Lago Agrio oil field) caused environmental damage
in rain forests and rivers and increased health concerns in both
Ecuador and Peru. Activists call this incident Amazon Chernobyl. Both of these
lawsuits were dismissed in the US federal court because the court believed that
there was no jurisdiction in the United States. Rather, they believed that this case should have been heard in either Ecuador
or Peru. So, in 2003, this case was brought forward in Ecuador. By this time, Texaco
had merged with Chevron, an American Energy Corporation. The
Ecuadorian community has also attempted to bring this case before the ICC (the
International Criminal Court). Their claim is that because Chevron polluted the
rain forests and rivers and subsequently avoided any form of repayment or
mediation, this constituted a crime against humanity. The US Supreme Court
ruled in favor of Chevron Corporation, seemingly ending the fight of Ecuadorian
villagers and American lawyers seeking repayment from Chevron for huge amounts
of pollution. However it was far from over. They [Ecuadorian citizens] then took the case to Canada. In 2018, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the
Ontario supreme court’s ruling saying that Chevron Canada cannot be held
liable for the parent company of Chevron Energy Corporation.

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