Structure and agency of the environmental movement

Authored by: Fadzilah Majid Cooke , Adnan A. Hezri

Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415625210
eBook ISBN: 9781315474892
Adobe ISBN: 9781315474885


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This chapter describes the rather dissimilar structural origins of environmentalism in West and East Malaysia and their convergence in recent times on a range of issues. In particular, the inclusion of social and economic well-being in environmentalists’ concerns has allowed them to forge alliances across civil society. The widening of the meaning of ‘environmental’ to include social and economic systems (not only the biological system) thus allows us to argue that environmentalism as a social movement is not simply a middle-class phenomenon, as it has been described in Malaysia (Ramakrishna, 2003), but rather has a more diversified base – including the poor or disenfranchised in urban and rural settings. Changes related to the curtailment or loss of access to the means of livelihoods – especially land, forests and water – have led to a defence of the environment among those whose livelihoods are dependent on natural resources (Majid Cooke, 2003; 2012).

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