The British environmental movement: The development of an environmental consciousness and environmental activism, 1945-1975

by Mark Wilson

Institution: University of Northumbria
Department: Arts, Design and Social Sciences
Year: 2014
Keywords: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences; V100 History by period; V300 History by topic
Record ID: 1401819
Full text PDF: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/21603/


This work investigates the development of an environmental consciousness and environmental activism in Britain, 1945-1975. The 1970s have been described as ‘the decade of the environment’ and was the period when the modern environmental movement emerged. In this thesis, the environmental movement is considered to be a broad network of individuals and pressure groups engaging in collective action with shared environmental beliefs. Much of the work on the movement has ignored or played down the importance of the post-war period on its development. This project challenges that, dealing less with the movement itself and more with the developments which led to its emergence: through analysing events like the great London smog of 1952 and the Torrey Canyon oil spill of 1967, as well as through television programmes, this thesis traces the post-war influences of the movement and the growth of environmental awareness. Environmental pressure groups form part of the movement and a number of them are studied here, such as the Newcastle-based group Save Our City from Environmental Mess and the London-based group Commitment, WWF, Friends of the Earth and the National Smoke Abatement Society. From analysing the resources of these groups and the political processes within which they appear (resource mobilisation theory and political process theory) a better understanding is made about their successes, failures and how they fed into a growing environmental awareness. Television programmes from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – notably natural history programmes such as Look, Zoo Quest, Doctor Who and Doomwatch – also helped an environmental consciousness develop. In marrying together these different issues, this work provides an original contribution to knowledge, and assesses some of the influences which led to the environmental movement emerging in 1970s Britain.