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Do we still need environmental NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth or are they relics?

By 20th April 2017 Blog, Sustainability 2 Comments

Are environmental NGOs a relic of the past that we no longer need now we’ve woken up to sustainability?

This is how Greenpeace got started: a handful of people opposed to nuclear weapons testing off the coast of Alaska. Friends of the Earth International had a similarly modest beginning.

Over the years, they’ve grown into sizeable organisations – in fact, in many ways, they resemble multi-national corporations nowadays.

Together, they campaign on a wide range of issues, but are these non-governmental organisations (NGOs) founded in the 1970s still relevant in the 21st century?

With the exception of North Korea, nobody seems to be testing nuclear weapons technology by detonating bombs to watch what happens anymore.

And we’ve travelled a long way when it comes to environmental protection and conservation: bodies like the United Nations take a lead on everything from sustainable agriculture to climate change, and national governments have introduced tougher laws to curb pollution and waste.

Not only that, but individuals have become much more aware of environmental issues, particularly with the advent of 24/7 global news reporting, the internet and social media. Just look at this Google Trends report to see how searches for “climate change” have steadily increased over the last 5 years.

As a consequence of this greater awareness, people are adopting more environmentally-conscious behaviours that include household recycling (which has grown significantly in the last 20 years) and they take those into the workplace, expecting employers to act in the same way. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that people seek out employers with a strong track-record of environmental performance.

With all that in mind, do we still need ‘green’ NGOs or are we now in a position where society as a whole (including the world of business) is capable of and willing to take responsibility for maintaining momentum on environmental issues?

And if we do think there’s a continuing role for environmental NGOs, how do we make sure that their efforts are aligned with society’s needs and grounded in reality?

Answers welcome in the comments below!


  • K W says:

    I totally agree Lee! The trouble is that the protections we have from the EU have cleared up so much. Serious issues that were around when I was a lad have been sorted out. Sewage/rivers/chemical pollution etc were all a problem but now we have strong legislation in place. So many of the money raising stances of the NGOs do not follow science. Campaigns against glyphosate (its not carcinogenic) GMOs (they are not a serious issue) and fracking may raise money, but its under false pretences, done using fake science. The few issues that do need attention such as air pollution do not raise public interest, and so these NGOs really are left mopping up a few issues. Sadly for them, their reasons for being have evaporated in the UK.

  • HB says:

    The groups are largely marginalized at this point. They cannot sustain reasonable discussions around issues because they have become radical science-deniers and are utterly impractical. I don’t think they will ever matter again because so much of the population has been turned off by their lack of objectivity as well as their methods.

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