Publication Details

Castree, N. (2006). Western environmentalism today: paradoxes, problems and challenges. Soundings, 34 (3), 11-21.


It's forty years since the birth of the modern environmental movement in the West and beyond. After a thrilling late 1960s infancy and a rather successful 1970s adolescence, the movement should have enjoyed an early adulthood full of achievement. Yet its development was thoroughly arrested as the 1980s gave way to the 90s. For many environmentalists, the apparent greening of governments, firms and consumers after the first Earth Summit was simply a sham. For instance, veteran American campaigner Tom Athanasiou (1996) regarded Rio and its aftermath as little more than "a long flatulence".1 Fifteen years on, however, there are suddenly signs of renewal globally, but especially in the world's most powerful states. Western politicians and their publics seem preoccupied with environmental issues to a degree not witnessed since the first Earth Day and the early campaigns of Greenpeace. Is this, then, a moment when Western environmentalists can continue a journey so rudely interrupted by the likes of Reagan and Thatcher?