Social Movement Theory and the Character of Environmental Social Movements

  • Steven Yearley


The end of the millennium provided an apparently irresistible occasion for trying to take stock of all kinds of human endeavours. Commentators asked whether war and violence were decreasing or on the rise; the Jubilee 2000 pressure group proposed that this was a fitting time for the forgiveness of international debt; religious spokespersons wondered about the spiritual state of humanity at this symbolic date, symbolic in the Christian world at least. But it was also a critical date for assessments of environmental progress. During the 1990s many environmental groups, convinced of the rapidity of ecological deterioration, had set the year 2000 as some kind of milestone. But in the end, no enormous environmental changes occurred to mark that date. In the market, all was mostly business as usual; the stock exchanges were all riding high. Nor had the unequivocal environmental depredations they had feared become overwhelmingly apparent. Yet, at another level there was a change since, by the end of the millennium, social movement organisations (SMOs) had become the most popularly acclaimed and, in many respects, trusted agencies advocating large-scale environmental change. They had won widespread public admiration because of their daring and heroic undertakings, because of the verve and symbolic acuity of their actions and because they seemed to be in the vanguard of environmental change and to be responding to the challenges of globalisation.


Social Movement Descriptive Definition Green Movement Green Party Social Movement Organisation 
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Copyright information

© Steven Yearley 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Yearley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of YorkUK

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