Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate
Chapter 8: Ecological modernization: industrial transformations and environmental reform
Arthur P.J. Mol INTRODUCTION: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF ECOLOGICAL MODERNIZATION The history of environmental concern in western, industrial societies is usually divided into two or three different waves in the literature, depending on the authors’ historical outlook. At the outset of the twentieth century, the first wave of environmental concern focused mainly on the degradation of ‘natural’ landscapes due to increasing industrialization and the expansion of cities. Social concern during this phase of environmental degradation did not so much question the foundations of the emerging industrial society; the emphasis was rather on demands for the protection of valuable nature areas against the devastating influence of rapid industrialization and urbanization. Nature reserves and semi-protected areas are the typical products of this wave in most industrial societies. The central notion of environmentalism in the 1970s was that a fundamental reorganization of the social order was a conditio sine qua non for an ecologically sound society. But the ecology-inspired demand for social change during this second wave resounded only to a limited extent in the institutions of industrial society. Among its most significant successes were the creation of government departments for the environment in most industrial societies, an expanding environmental legislation and planning and a rapid increase in the number and membership of non-governmental environmental organizations. Although a large number of measures to combat environmental destruction were adopted and some were actually implemented, most of the challenged institutions of modernity, such as those which play a key role in the industrial structure, in...
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