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[greenyes] when do we want Zero Waste?


New Scientist. vol 183 issue 2462 - 28 August 2004
When do you want it? now!

Chaining yourself to bulldozers and throwing paint over company
executives is more likely to influence environmental policy than
schmoozing on Capitol Hill. So says an analysis of the impact of the
green movement in the US between 1960 and 1994.

The study compares the number of bills passed by Congress with tactics
employed by green groups in the same year. Jon Agnone, a sociologist at
the University of Washington, Seattle, found that sit-ins, rallies and
boycotts were highly effective at forcing new environmental laws. Each
protest raised the number of pro-environment bills passed by 2.2 per
cent. Neither effort spent schmoozing politicians nor the state of
public opinion made any difference.

But conventional politics does play a part. Environmental legislation is
75 per cent more likely to pass when Democrats control both houses of
Congress. And it gets a 200 per cent boost in congressional election
years, presumably because politicians see it as a vote winner.

Agnone, who presented his results on 17 August at the American
Sociological Association's meeting in San Francisco, says protest groups
lose their edge when they become part of the system. Their most
effective weapon is disruption. "If you make a big enough disturbance
then people have to recognise what you are doing."

This is no surprise, says John Passacantando, executive director of
Greenpeace USA. "We know that unless a politician feels real pressure,
or a chief executive senses a threat to his market, everything else is
just talk."


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