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Environmental Movements Since Love Canal: Hope, Despair, and (Im)mobilization


  • Allan Schnaiberg


This paper challenges conventional social scientific assessments of the postive features of community mobilization in Niagara Falls, New York, around toxic wastes being emitted from the Love Canal. In contrast, I argue that this form of local activism (1) created a new focus on human health concerns, and a diminished concern with ecosystem protection; (2) entailed a complex set of local issues that contextualize local movements, which makes it difficult for such movements to coalesce with and strengthen national and regional environmental organizations; and (3) started a process in which rising fear and despair are the hallmarks of much local mobilization, as much as new forms of anger and radicalization which propel future activism. Based on these reflections, the paper offers a critique of challenging existing political-economic policy in the United States by voluntary social-movement organizations. Instead, I offer alternative political party models from other industrial societies that appear to be more effective in redirecting economic policies to both protect the environment, and to enhance social opportunities.

Suggested Citation

  • Allan Schnaiberg, "undated". "Environmental Movements Since Love Canal: Hope, Despair, and (Im)mobilization," IPR working papers 98-33, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:nwuipr:98-33

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