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Understanding diversity in the radical environmental movement

Deanna Meyler, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Critics have accused the mainstream environmental movement of being a primarily white, middle class male movement. This dissertation considers whether the same criticism applies to radical environmental movements. Results are interpreted within the framework of radical ideology. The research distinguishes radical organizations in two ways: use of radical tactics and identification of deep ecology and ecofeminism as guiding philosophies. These discourses identify both humans and non-humans as having intrinsic value, and view the treatment of humans as linked to the treatment of nature. I examined diversity in three different case studies using semi-structured interviews, observation, a self-administered survey and content analysis. In general, the movement was not diverse in terms of race, with each case study revealing different obstacles to full participation based on gender, race, or class. ^ Earth First! activists on the Pacific Northwest coast often felt that people of color could not be involved in the movement due to class differences in opportunity, and did see active inclusion of diversity as a prerequisite to achieving environmental goals. Earth First! women also identified gender roles as an obstacle to full participation. In Colorado, Earth First! activists encountered racial tensions when the community was initially unwilling to work with primarily white outsiders due to a history of exploitation by Anglos. Successful formation of a loose coalition between Mexican Americans residents and Earth First! activists was primarily due to factions working separately. A feminist eco-village comprised of people from similar racial backgrounds discussed how class differences created inequality in the village because villagers had different cultural capital and access to resources. Finally, the Earth First! Journal, as a medium for news sharing in the radical environmental movement, rarely discussed diversity in a critical manner or within the context of deep ecology. ^ This research suggests that attitudes and behaviors within the radical environmental movement were not congruent with principles of deep ecology and ecofeminism and may have been a discouragement to diversity. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Meyler, Deanna, "Understanding diversity in the radical environmental movement" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3104622.