Lesson Objectives • To illustrate the origins of the green movement in US politics. • To identify and discuss institutions in relation to green politics. • To identify and discuss linkage mechanisms in relation to green politics. • To identify and discuss trends in public opinion related to green politics.
Lesson Methods • Lecture • Small group discussion
What color “green?” • Green movement tends to focus on a more balanced relationship between human society and the biosphere. • Light greens—focus on personal choices to a greater extent than political solutions. • Dark greens—focus on radical institutional changes • Bright greens—focus on sustainability (a function of personal choice and institutional reform)
Origins of Green Movement in US Politics (19th & 20th Century) • Intellectual/Social and Political Elites • Intellectual Elites (e.g., Transcendental Movement, Rachel Carson) • Social Elites (e.g., John Muir) • Political Elites • Institutional Actors (e.g., Teddy Roosevelt) • Trend: Moved from a quasi-religious movement to a rights-based movement.
Institutions and Green Politics • Presidency—bully pulpit, agenda setting. • E.g., Obama and climate change agenda. • Congress—majorities have an impact, but constituency interests are also important. • E.g., Democratic Congress is more accepting of major environmental regulations and supportive of non-fossil energy development. • E.g., Individual legislators from fossil energy producing districts temper their support for “green” initiatives regardless of party membership. • Supreme Court—Justices have different philosophies on the meaning of rights and liberties (e.g., Justice Douglas)
Linkage Mechanisms and Green Politics Green politics is about risk— risk associated with the impact of global choices on individual rights and the rights of nature. Linkage mechanisms help us to define those risks and to voice our concern through group action.
Pressure Groups • Played an early and prominent role in green politics beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. • Greenpeace • Nature Conservancy • Environmental Defense Fund • PETA • ALF/ELF
Media • Traditional/Mainstream • News articles and t.v. segments about pollution and climate change • Linkage with social, economic, and political elites. • Non-Traditional • Personal electronic communication increases information flow and allows for the quick and informal formation of protest groups.
Public Opinion • Post-Industrial Society • Among post-WWII generations, there has been a movement towards concern for the environment. • Rights have become more broadly defined by the public—to include environmental rights that go beyond traditional anthropromorphic views of rights.
Small group discussion • In groups of 3-5 people, discuss your views of green politics. What kind of green are you, if at all? Why do you hold your position? Do you think that green politics will change American politics? If so, how? If not, why not?
Suggested Reading • Guber, D. (2001). Voting Preferences and the environment in the the American electorate. Society & Natural Resources, 14(6): 455-469.