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Beyond politics

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM AND WORLD CIVIC POLITICS·Paul Wapner·State University of New York Press, Albany·1996

 
By Abhijit Mukhopadhyay
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- this book is about transnational environmental activist groups. It describes their politics and analyses the strategies they employ to bring the environment to the forefront. The focal point of the book is that the efforts of transnational environmental activist groups at lobbying with states is but one approach to environmental protection and the process of shaping environmental policies.

Wapner is of the opinion that there is a certain preoccupation with the notion of the state as being the centre of politics, something that is reflected even in some theories about environmental problems. Statism places the subject of environment management within the existing structure of the state. Supra-statism envisages the formation of a super state that would exclusively handle environmental issues, since the attention of states is fragmented. It is only the theory of sub-statism that questions the ability of the state as an institution dealing with environmental problems. There is nothing wrong with the former two views as the state is indeed a predominant political institution. But to the politically-minded, there seems to be something wrong with the belief that attempts to influence the state to create a better environment is the only way out.

Wapner primarily concentrates three environmental groups: Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature and Friends of Earth. The author believes that environmental groups like these have concentrated not only on trying to mould government policies, but also attempted to shape the activities of other institutions, collectivities and individuals. They have tried manipulating mechanisms of power existing outside the realm of state-to-state relations which determine economic, social and cultural practices that affect the environment.

Over the past few decades, the emergence and evolution of transnational environmental groups like the ones described in the book has given global politics a new dimension. However, these organisations have a long way to go before anything concrete shapes up. 'What can be done' far outweighs the 'what was and is being done'. Wapner seeks to attract interest towards this growing field. He admits that he could be proved wrong as he has chosen only a few transnational environmental groups and therefore urges future studies on the subject.

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