Polish Environmental Movement 1980-2017 (De)legitimization, Politics & Ecological Crises

Authors: Julia Szulecka and Kacper Szulecki

ESPRi Working Paper No 6, 2017


Why has the Polish government decided to give in to environmental protesters in the widely publicised case of the Rospuda River (2006-2007) but chooses to ignore both EU pressure and domestic activism the ongoing protests against the logging of the Białowieża forest? It is difficult to understand the difference without an in-depth analysis of domestic political conditions and ways in which external stimuli and global processes are accommodated. That is why in this paper we go quite far back in history, to trace the roots, emergence and evolution of Polish political environmentalism – not restricted to protest groups, social movements, or green parties, but covering all forms of political engagement in the name of environmental protection. The paper begins with a brief reconstruction of the ideational and socio-political evolution of environmentalism in Poland, and the history of the rise and fall of the mass environmental protest movement between 1985 and 1990. The analysis that follows traces three levels of the movement’s legitimacy: on the level of practices, breadth and discourse. Our analysis is structured chronologically, dividing the period until 2017 into historically significant phases. Each phase sees shifts on different levels of legitimacy, and each ends with a spectacular environmental protest or a decision linked to it: Żarnowiec in 1989, Czorsztyn in 1992, Mount St. Anne in 1998, Rospuda in 2007 and the ongoing campaigns around the issues of nuclear energy, smog and the Białowieża Forest. The results of these most spectacular and remembered protests had implications for the following phase, the trajectory of the movement or were a kind of litmus test for the legitimacy of political environmental protest at those points in time. 

Keywords: social movements, civil society, Europeanization, Poland, Green politics, environmentalism, political ecology

Szulecka, Julia and Szulecki, Kacper, Polish Environmental Movement 1980-2017: (De)Legitimization, Politics & Ecological Crises, ESPRi Wokring Papers 6 (2017). 

Szulecka and Szulecki 2017 Polish Environmental Movement ESPRI WP 6

Polish Environmental Movement 1980-2017 (De)legitimization, Politics & Ecological Crises

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