In this study – part of the History for a Sustainable Future series – the author sets the origins of a national agenda against a backdrop of international green measures, from the founding of the world’s first national park (Yellowstone) in 1872 to the International Conference for the Protection of Nature in Berne in 1913.
Environmentalists in Germany never comprised a distinct, idealistic sect, but rather made up a cross-section of the general population, and thus appeared in all political stripes. During the Nazi era, there was no consistent policy, a situation encapsulated in the photograph of Hermann Göring – architect of the Reich Conservation Law of 1935 – standing over the body of a moose he has just shot.
The years since have seen the nation lead active protest, with German environmentalists being among the first to muster mass opposition to the expansion of airports, refineries, and, in particular, nuclear power stations. Looking to the future, Uekötter seems cautiously optimistic: as the environment faces new challenges, a new kind of environmentalism is needed, and ‘Germany may prove to be a laboratory for things to come’.
THE GREENEST NATION? A New History of German Environmentalism by Frank Uekötter, MIT Press, £19.95