Transnational Environmental Activism after Seattle: Between Emancipation and Arrogance

  • Kate O’Neill
  • Stacy D. VanDeveer


The protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization Ministerial in 1999 were a pivotal moment for the transnational environmental movement. Seattle brought together a diverse range of environmental groups from around the world in a volatile, direct-action situation as opposed to the more “civilized” context of an international meeting. Present were not only the lobbying groups who have begun to make their mark on the international scene, but also more radical groups—opposing global capitalism, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and a range of other issues, who were prepared to utilize tactics that the mainstream movement had previously not had to confront. We argue that Seattle and subsequent events helped crystallize a particular set of issues for the mainstream transnational environmental movement, forcing members to confront issues of organization and tactics that they had heretofore marginalized. These include explicitly linking environmental concerns to a global justice framework, and deliberately embracing tactics of nonviolence in order to distance themselves from the “saboteurs” who have captured so much media attention at international protests. These new emphases were particularly visible at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development and recent campaigns around altering common practices within extractive industries. At the same time, by (re)opening their tactical repertoire to include street protest and Internet and E-mail organizing tactics, transnational environmental groups have opened an opportunity to widen their societal base, reaching a younger and more diverse audience. Lastly, the substance and participation Patterns with transnational environmental debates are also expanding beyond their North American and Northern European origins.


Environmental Group Global Environment Facility Global Civil Society Northern Group International Financial Institution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Janie Leatherman and Julie Webber 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate O’Neill
  • Stacy D. VanDeveer

There are no affiliations available

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