ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS ARE groups collectively trying to improve the conditions of the environment for human health, biodiversity, and ecosystem integrity. Environmental movements can have a diverse set of political perspectives and ethical orientations and engage in tactics that vary from social protest and direct action to litigation and policy reform. Environmental movements promote one or more dimensions of environmentalism, which seek social change based on a commitment to resource sustain-ability and ecosystem preservation.
Some of the earliest environmental movements were organized around concerns about hunting and conservation of wildlife. By the 20th century, urban environmental issues with sanitation, clean water, clean air, and public health became another key focus for environmental movements. Environmental movements emerged at the same time as the women's liberation, the anti-Vietnam War, and other leftist counterculture movements. The counterculture of the 1960s connected environmentalism to the critique of capitalist consumer society. Some note the image of a fragile Earth from the early space missions as a key moment for environmental movements. Widespread support for environmental movements emerged with attention to the story of Love Canal, where children were exposed to toxins in the soil below a school on a site that previously was a toxic dump. Environmental movements began to emphasize local and household issues, where families took up concerns about children's exposure to toxins.
The ethical orientations of environmental movements range from the conservation-oriented utilitarians who look to preserve resources for human use, to those with preservation-oriented perspectives who attribute intrinsic value to ecological systems, biodiversity, and charismatic species. Utilitarian perspectives are often characterized as anthropocen-tric because they ascribe rights only to present and future generations of humans. The eco-centric and bio-centric perspectives extend the domain of ethical consideration to living species and assemblages of species. The eco-centric and bio-centric perspectives have their origins in the Romanticism of Thoreau and other 19th century nature writing. These ethical views come into conflict in questions about the human use of natural resource and wilderness.
Given the diversity of environmental problems, environmental movements are quite diverse in their foci, although the political power of these groups often varies with the political power of the opponents they encounter. Environmental movements shape environmental outcomes in various ways, some using the political system, some focusing on the promotion of green consumerism and stewardship, and ecological modernization, while others use more violent tactics, like ecotage. As of 1995, there were over 10,000 environmental organizations in the United States, with 44 million members, income of $2.7 billion, and assets of over $5.8 billion. Environmental organizations come from a variety of perspectives, raising a diverse set of concerns ranging from those that focus on local, not-in-my-back-yard issues; mainstream Washington-based lobby and policy-oriented nongovernmental organizations, such as the Union Concerned Scientists and the World Watch Institute; political parties like the U.S. and German Green Parties; legal-action groups, like Friends of the Earth, the Center for Foods Safety, and the Defenders of Wildlife; donor and member-driven groups such as the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, GreenPeace, the Wilderness Society, and World Wildlife Fund; and radical direct-action groups ranging from Greenpeace to Earth First!
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