With the increase in ecological crisis, there has been a corresponding increase in the awareness and concern about it all over the world. This has, in turn, led to widespread protest movements by aggrieved communities and concerned citizens.
Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984, nuclear disaster at Chernobyl (Russia) in 1986, Alaskan oil spill from Exxon Valdez tanker in 1989, and the Gulf War in the early 1990s are some examples of hazardous and undesirable happenings that led to ecological crisis in the human history.
Late 20th century (near about the early 1970s) concern about the impact of human activities on the environment has resulted in new social, political and ecological movement and the growing salience of so-called ‘green issue’.
It has given rise to a steady growth of environmental-ecological movement all over the world, including India. These movements have been put under the category of ‘new social movements’ because they were not class-based and do not raise any economic issue like earlier agrarian or industrial movements. Such movements were a resurgence of an interest of the people in their natural environment.
In the early decades of the last century, a conservation movement grew up to conserve such rapidly depleting natural resources as forests. More recently efforts to protect various birds and animals in danger of extinction by human predators led to the enactment of concerned laws in many countries.
These developments have boosted the formation of many environmental protection and preservation organizations, such as ‘Green Network’ or the ‘Greenpeace’ or ‘Friends of the Earth’ (1969) throughout the world, including India.
Guha and Gadgil (1989) defined the environmental movements as ‘organized social activity consciously directed towards promoting sustainable use of natural resources halting environmental degradation or bringing about environmental restoration’.
In the West environmental movements focus on consumption, productive use of natural resources and conservation or protection of natural resources. In India, such movements are based on the use of, as well as control over, natural resources.
The first conference on human environment initiated by UNO was held at Stockholm in 1972. It paved the way for the studies on the condition of the environment and its effects on human beings. It expressed serious concern to protect and improve the environment for present and the future generations.
As a result of these conference environmental movements under different names such as ‘Green Polities’, ‘Eco-greens’ or ‘Green Movement’ (Germany and North America) developed in the 1980s. First scientific warning of serious depletion of protective ozone layer in upper atmosphere by CFCs was raised during the Stockholm Conference (1972).
The 1989 European elections (1989) put green issues firmly on political agenda as Green parties across Europe gave top priority to this in their election campaign. In 1992, the United Nations Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the issues of environmental crisis faced by almost all developed and developing nations.
In this conference, about 1,000 NGOs and about 50,000 individuals participated from all over the world. The issues of climate change and loss of biodiversity dominated the conference. A list of 27 principles was framed to preserve and improve the environment.
The various programmes of UNO, specially the UNEP, have emphasized the need for sustainable development. It is agreed upon that environment and development are for the people and not people for environment and development. A parallel informal group assembled at Flamingo Park and formed a global forum on environment under the president ship of Morris Strong in 1972.