Environmental Activism and the Media

The Politics of Protest

by Maxine Newlands (Author)
©2018 Textbook XVIII, 236 Pages


For more than 40 years politicians, activists, advocates, and individuals have been seeking ways to solve the problem of climate change. Governments and the United Nations have taken an economic path, while others seek solutions in the equality of climate justice. Taking the step from green consumer to the streets at climate summits and protest camps, as well as taking direct action recasts activists as everything from tree huggers, to domestic extremists, to ecoterrorists. Political policing and new legislation increasingly criminalizes environmental activism, supported by media reporting that recasts environmental activism as actions to be feared.
Why this has happened and how activists have learned to circumvent the media’s recasting is the story of Environmental Activisim and the Media: The Politics of Protest. Through media movements to persuade the moveable middle, high court challenges, and gatekeeping, activists have found ways to challenge media and political discourse.
This book identifies four key areas to tie together diverse sets of green governmentality, traditional media discourse, and activism: (1) environmental governance and green governmentality; (2) historical media discourse; (3) alternative communication infrastructures; and (4) local to the global. Using data from 50 interviews, archival research, and non-participatory observation from environmental activists from the UK, USA, and Australia, this text will show why protest is important in democratic political participation.
From activists to slacktivists, Environmental Activism and the Media: The Politics of Protest is for those with an interest in cultural, social, and political studies; democratic processes; climate and social justice; governmentality; and/or the study of environmental politics, human geography, communication, and sustainability.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Environmental Activism, Politics and Traditional Media
  • Governmentality and Green Governmentality: The Acceptable and Unacceptable Environmentalist
  • Climate Change Concepts: A Potted History
  • An Emerging Anthropocene?
  • The Rise of the Environmental Left
  • Managing the Environment and Wilderness
  • The Rise of the Environmental Right: Climate Sceptics and the Conservative Right
  • UK Political Right and Co-opting the Environment
  • Who are Atypical EcoActivists?
  • The Climate Science Behind the Headlines
  • Current Climate Debate, the Role of Traditional and Social Media
  • Structure of the Book
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Media Governance, EcoActivism and the Traditional Media
  • Media, Culture, and the Environment—Revisited
  • Authoritative Voices, Gatekeeping, and Activists as Primary Definers
  • Media Language, Method, and the Politics of Protest
  • Protest, Primary Definers and Discourse: An Example of the Reporting on Greenham Common Peace Camp
  • The Voice of Radical Activists
  • Reclaim the Streets; EcoActivism and Media Governance in 1990s Britain
  • Swampy’s Newspaper Column Undermines the Movement
  • May Day, May Day Media Governance
  • Camp for Climate Action 2007
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 3. Environmental Governance: The Role of Environmental Activism in Contentious Politics
  • Green Governmentality: Managing the Environment through Persuasion and Discipline
  • Was Foucault an Environmentalist?
  • Case Studies: Economics and the Environment—A Stern Warning
  • Green Governmentality: Vote Blue, Go Green
  • The Environment as a New Mode of European Managerialism
  • Greenwashing and the Corporation
  • Green Governmentality and an Uncertain Future for EcoActivists
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 4. Recasting Environmental Activism as Criminal Dissent: Soft Power, Political Policing and the Media
  • Governance and the Organizing of a Political Space for Action
  • Tactic of Law: Legislative Changes and the Criminalization of ecoActivism
  • Case Study One: Antipodean, Anadarko and Anti-Protest Laws
  • Case Study Two: North America and the Onus of Proof on Protesters
  • Case Study Three: United Kingdom and Conflating ecoActivism with Terrorism
  • Reaching a Critical Mass
  • Criminalizing Protest to Protect Corporations: The Injunction and the Activists
  • Secret Police: Political Policing as a Technique of Dominance
  • Political Policing in the UK
  • Domestic Extremism as a Technique of Dominance
  • Political Policing: PC Mark ‘Stone’ Kennedy
  • Agent Provocateurs and Political Policing at G20
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 5. “Don’t Glue Yourself to the Prime Minister!”—Millennial Media Movements and Alternative Activists’ Communication Strategies
  • Early Media Movements: Greenpeace
  • Millennial Media Movements: A Balance between Openness and Protectionism
  • Organizing into a Media Movement
  • Millennial Media Movements: Turning the Tables with Technology
  • Millennial Media Movements: Camps for Climate Action (Climate Camps)
  • Media Movements: Utilizing the Media Eye
  • Media Movements: Superglue—Stick it to the Man
  • Millennial Movements: Adapting from Lessons Learnt
  • Countering Media Reporting Attempts to Divide and Rule
  • Traditional Journalism Reject the Media Movement
  • Conclusion: Gatekeeping Beyond the Movement
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 6. Activism is More Than Hits and Likes: Social Media Strategies and the Moveable Middle
  • How Activists Benefit from Changing Media Habits
  • Network Power, Network Journalism, and Functions
  • Changes in Media Practice: A Return of the Protester’s Voice?
  • Citizen Journalism and Capacity Building in the Community
  • Going Online to Get Offline
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 7. Heterotopias: Retaining Power in the Space of Protest
  • Square People and Temporary Autonomous Zones
  • Heterotopic Space and Political Power
  • Space and Liminoid Practices of Protest
  • Community Outreach and Protection of the Protest Space
  • EcoActivism, Space, and Sites of Contestation
  • Insiders and Outsiders: When a Heterotopic Fails
  • Fences and Fear: Surveillance and Space
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 8. Politics of Protest: Environmental Activism in a Heated World
  • Conference of the Parties—A Potted History
  • Paris 2015—Planning to Draw Redlines
  • Before CoP21—Plans and Paris
  • Movement Building and Reclaim the Future
  • State of Emergency and Public Statements
  • Paris—Post Nov 13
  • REDLINES—A Movement Building Project Beyond Paris
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 9. Conclusion: Environmental Activism and the Media
  • The Future Politics of Protest?
  • Space, Power and Protest
  • Revisiting and Looking Forward
  • A Final Word
  • References
  • Index

| xiii →


Figure 2.1. Anti-roads protesters being evicted from Tothill camp, Newbury bypass. Feb 1996. Image courtesy of Nick Woolley (wikimedia).

Figure 2.2. Swampy’s column from the Sunday Mirror newspaper in 1997. Image courtesy of Mirrorpix.

Figure 4.1. Police stop critical mass bicycle ride in London. Image courtesy of the author.

Figure 5.1. London Evening Standard front page, militants in plot to paralyse Heathrow. Image courtesy of the London Evening Standard.

Figure 6.1. VisionOnTv Media Tent—Climate Camp 2007. Image courtesy of the author.

Figure 6.2. Climate Camp Citizen journalism guide. Image courtesy of Hamish Campbell and Richard Hering at VisionOnTv.

Figure 7.1. Consensus decision making: through hand signals, from Climate Camp Handbook (2009).

| xv →


I would like to acknowledge some of the people whose contribution, ideas and insights have gone into this book. Thanks to Kathryn Harrison, Mary Savigar, Michael Doub and all the team at Peter Lang Publishing. Thanks to the Mirrorpix and London Evening Standard for the permission to reproduce the newspaper images. This work has benefited from the activists and individuals who have given up their time to talk and be interviewed over several years. Special thanks goes to John Jordan, Dan Glass, John Stewart, Martin, Mike, Steve, Debra, Nim, Des and London Critical Mass, The Hive, London Action Resource Centre (L.A.R.C.), VisionOnTv, Occupy LSX, new activists friends, and new colleagues at James Cook University in Australia and all the other activists who have broadened my knowledge – your experience and insights are at the heart of this book.

This book owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to Professor Erika Cudworth and Dr Stephen Hobden, as both my PhD supervisors, mentors and friends. Thanks also to Dr Abel Ugba, Professor Libby Lester and Professor Heather Nunn for reading through earlier versions and providing support and guidance. Thanks to the reviewers for their time and suggestions. Dr Angie Voela, thanks for your support, some of chapter seven is taken from our work together. Thanks too to the E16 cocktail club. I also would like to thank Professor Iain MacRury and Dr Andrew Calcutt for their guidance and ← xv | xvi → editorial help with chapter three. Chapter Three is partially taken from an edited collection by Iain, Andrew and Professor Gavin Poynter titled London After Recession A Fictitious Capital? (2012) Routledge.

Lastly, but never least, my wholehearted thanks to my family and tribe. To Anna, Nick, Otto and Teddy, Si Cobb, Mark and Kazza, Joey, Simon and the Parsons tribe—thanks for asking when writing was going well, and staying quiet through the difficult times. My family, Mike, Uncle Alan and Aunty Maureen, and Bill and Ann Newlands, your quiet encouragement has been a constant source of support. For my parents—Mum you carry yours and dad’s spirit with you in all your love and support-thank you.

To Stephen, I dedicate this book to you for all your love, support and the many late night talks that makes life with you so adventurous.

| xvii →


ACPO Association of Chief Police Officers

BAA British Airports Authority

BRICS Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

BP British (Beyond) Petroleum

CDA Critical Discourse Analysis

CFCs Chlorofluorocarbons

CJA Criminal Justice Act

CJB Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill

CND Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

CoP Conference of the Parties

CSC Counterspin Collective

CSD United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development

DEFRA Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

DoE Department of Environment

EMSs Environmental Management Systems

EMT Ecological Modernization Theory

ENGOs Environmental Non-governmental Organizations

EU ETS European Union Emissions Trading Scheme

GATT General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ← xvii | xviii →

GEG Global Environmental Governance

HACAN Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise

IBRD International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

IMF International Monetary Fund

IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

KACAN Kew Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise

LARC London Action Resource Centre

MAFF Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now DEFRA)

MEAs Multilateral environmental agreements

MoD Ministry of Defence

NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement

NECTU National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit

NEPI New Environmental Policy Instruments

NFU National Farmers Union

NOTRAG No Third Runway Action Group (Heathrow Airport)

NPOIU National Police Intelligence Unit

PCC Press Complaints Commission

PPPs Public and Private Partnerships

RIPA Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act

SMOs Social Movement Organizations

SOCPA Serious Organized Crime and Police Act (2005)

TAZ Temporary Autonomous Zone

TNR Trans Northern Companies

UN United Nations

UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

UNEP United Nations Environmental Programme

UNFCCC United Nations Framework on Conventions on Climate Change

WTO World Trade Organization

| 1 →

· 1 ·


In 1999, Timothy Luke wrote that, “in the ongoing struggle over economic competitiveness, environmental resistance can even be recast as a type of civil disobedience, which endangers national security, expresses unpatriotic sentiments, or embodies treasonous acts” (1999, p. 125). Luke was observing what would become a political shift in the role of environmental activism in Western Democracy. In the same year the global justice movement exploded onto the world’s stage with anti-capitalist protests in Seattle, USA (1999). Protesters gathered to bring public attention to the environmental impact from trilateral agreements taking place at the World Trade Organization meeting that would have long-term economic and environmental impacts on most people. The ensuing battle between these two groups – political economists and environmental activists has produced binary positions in seeking solutions to climate change. In the fight, some environmental activism and protest more generally has become criminalize in the Western World, whilst economists and liberal politicians push for more and more market solutions. This book is based upon a critical examination of the media and political representation of environmental activism in shaping public knowledge about climate change. The book is based on interviews with environmental activists and critical discourse analysis of newspaper representations of environmental activism from the 1980s to the early 2010s. ← 1 | 2 →

Environmental Activism, Politics and Traditional Media1

Over the past four decades environmentalism has become the baseline for key areas of political, economic and social justice debates. Growth within the professional political left of Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGO) has seen an expansion of interest groups such as Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, Friends of the Earth, World Wildlife Foundation etc., into multinational organizations. Equally, radical environmental activists have seen different incarnations like the Global Justice Movement, Climate Camps, Occupy and Anti-Fracking Movements. Simultaneously, global Institutions and political collaborations has led to mainly non-binding agreements with the creation of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Agenda 21 (1992), the Kyoto Protocol (1997), Bruntland agreement, Conference of Parties (CoP) (1992–present) including the Paris Agreement (2015) and many more. Each of these initiatives places economics at their core. The result is a split between governments and global institutions seeking economic led solutions and the more sociological solutions of the left and radical left, as evidenced by the continuation of environmental protest around the planet despite moves to criminalize and curtail.

Across the world, environmental activists are constantly challenging neoliberal approaches such as energy markets, emissions and carbon trading schemes that has become common as a solution to climate change. How activism movements maintain pressure on governments and corporations is the focus of the second half of this book. From social media to superglue, artivism, craftivism and spy cams, activists are constantly developing innovative ways to be a voice within environmental politics. This book focuses on the radical environmental activists collectives such as the Anti-roads movement and Reclaim the Streets (1990s), Global Justice Movement (2000s) mega-protests at Conference of Parties (CoP), Camps for Climate Action UK (2005–2010), Reclaim the Power (2008-present), (2010–), Occupy Movement (2011) and anti-fracking—Knitting Nanna’s (2012) and the Red Lines (2015–2017).

To distinguish between professional and radical, hierarchical and non-hierarchical this book refers to radical as ecoActivists/ism with a capital A, and ecoActivism for professional, hierarchical organizations. The A represent the inclusion of the anarchist strand in radical protest collectives such as Black Bloc (1990s–present). Black Bloc is not a prescribed collective, but more a ← 2 | 3 → group of individuals who believe in “violence against the police as a legitimate political tool, a form of self-defence against the state” (Viejo, 2003, p. 371). Much of the Black Bloc rhetoric came out of the Class War, Poll Tax Riots (1989) and Whitechapel Anarchist collectives (1980 onwards), and still permeates the movement today. EcoActivists from each of the groups identified above, and other collectives were interviewed for this book. The book draws on over 50 interviews with activists in the UK, USA and Australia. Critical Discourse Analysis of newspaper clippings and reporting of ecoActivism in the traditional media as the framework for the findings and supported by interview data and focus groups. Drawing on media (Fairclough, 1995; Couldry, 2000; Gerbaudo, 2012) and political discourse theory (Dryzek, 2000; Foucault, 1977, 1991), this book charts the relations of power and socio-economic outcomes between ecoActivists and mainstream polity since 1997. In doing so the power relations reveal that shaping the public understanding of radical environmental activism sees power shifting away from activism towards environmental governance and free-market economics, nestled in a media discourse. Climate change debates and the political economy have become so entrenched in media practices we are creeping towards deadlock. This book applies a Foucauldian interpretation of his concept of governmentality with Luke’s green governmentality to show that neoliberal politics takes us beyond Luke’s prediction, recasting anyone from an individual to inter-national ENGOs within a frame of deviance.

Governmentality and Green Governmentality: The Acceptable and Unacceptable Environmentalist


XVIII, 236
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVIII, 236 pp. 7 b/w ills.

Biographical notes

Maxine Newlands (Author)

Maxine Newlands (PhD, University of East London) is Senior Lecturer in Political Science and International Relations at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia. Her research interests include environmental politics, advocacy, and media discourse. Dr. Newlands has been a regular contributor at The Ecologist since 2012, writing on the topics of activism and environmental politics.


Title: Environmental Activism and the Media
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