"Om ikke akkurat grasrot, så nesten litt". Miljøverndepartementets bruk av "sivilsamfunnsinitiativer" som virkemidler for økt folkelig miljøengasjement
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This thesis studies how the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment tries to increase citizen involvement in environmental issues by using “grassroot” consumer organizations as a tool. Two such organizations are examined, namely Grønn Hverdag (Green Living) and 07-06-05 Tid for forandring (07-06-05 Time for Change). Both give the impression of being autonomous consumer organisations but are essentially working to implement, rather than influence, environmental policy. Based on interviews with representatives of the organizations and of the Ministry, I attempt to examine the following: Are these top-down “grassroot” initiatives compatible with democratic principles, and are they able to strengthen citizens’ involvement with environmental issues? The study deals with this question by looking at the relation between the state and environmental organizations in Norway in a historical perspective. I argue that the two organizations are parts of what might be regarded as a negative trend for democracy and political participation. First, increasing governmental control of voluntary organizations might transform many organizations into “arms of the state”. Second, public administration is participating in political debates in new ways, partly at the expense of voluntary organizations and political parties. Further, though political consumerism may be regarded as a legitimate tool for citizens to express political concerns, I argue that these state-dominated organizations place too much responsibility for environmental problems on the individual consumer and too little on the political level. The organizations might therefore fail to address important societal questions, and this may also limit their ability to gain popular support. This leads to the question of whether the focus on consensus and cooperation is always the best way for the political and administrative level to address environmental concerns.
PublisherThe University of Bergen
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