Political bi-partnership in Environmental Movements: Movement Organizers and Political Parties

Social movements attempt to make history, but only under circumstances existing already, given, and transmitted from the past (Ho, 2016). Social movements also act as an institutional construction agent, it could be a force against current institutions, or a driver that adds new elements and reforms institutions. Environmental movement itself could also be classified as a type of contentious politics. Current environmental movements are more focused on structural reasons of environmental pollution, instead of solely blaming on human desire (Ho, 2006). Environmentalists view themselves as activists that hoping to change the world through reforms, they believed that if environmental issues were solved, discrimination, exploitation would be solved (Ho, 2006). Globally speaking, there are more discussions on environmental movements in the study of Sociology and social movements. 

After the martial law was lift, Taiwan’s had various environmental movements that focuses on different fields: Sustainability, pollution problems, environmental protection due to rapid industrialization and urbanization in Taiwan. Scholars view Taiwan’s environmental movements served an important role in the development of civil society in Taiwan. Hsiao (1987) pointed out that Taiwan’s environmental movements in 1980s had two paths: “Romantic path” and “Strong path”, the former aims to enlighten the public and government officials to switch the policy design towards environmental protection. On the other hand, “Strong path” emphasise on mobilization and fight against government and capitalists that destruct the environment. However, he also stated that environmental movements during that period relied on local communities, NGOs and political parties had not much contributions on helping the society to cope with environmental problems (Hsiao, 2015). However, political parties in Taiwan started influencing Taiwan’s environmental movements and policies since late 1980s. 

Zald & McCarthy (1987) mentioned that environmental movements needed the support of conscience constituents and their translocal resources were crucial to stand against communities’ controlling elites. The relationship between the movements and political parties could be understood in this manner. Environmental movements in the national level needed the social network and resources of well-known influential political parties, while political parties could gain further support and expand its sphere of influence. Thus, it is a mutual-beneficial relationship between two groups although such coalition may cost in other aspects. During Anti-Kuokuang Petrochemical movement and Anti-Nuclear movements in Taiwan, both DPP and KMT participated in those events openly and successfully mobilize supporters to join the discussion and the movements. However, unlike political parties that are constantly environmentally conscious, both KMT and DPP were found sometimes having a pro-development campaign that angers environmentalists. This research attempted to discover the “sometimes allies, sometimes enemies” relationship of movements organizers/environmentalists and political parties in environmental movements focusing on environmental sustainability over 10-20 years in Taiwan. The cooperation and distancing strategies used by both groups which made such relationship would be analysed as well. 

Man Chinhttps://esgnthu.org/zh/申欽鳴-3/g Li

A Research Fellow in Environmental Sustainability