Politics of the Environment

  • Richard Muir


In June 1995, Shell capitulated in the face of a European campaign of boycotts organised by Greenpeace to oppose the deep water disposal of the obsolete Brent Spar oil rig. Shell was Europe’s largest company with an income in the previous year of about £4 billion. The corporation had conducted a vigorous campaign of lobbying and had gained the support of the UK government for its strategy of deep sea dumping. However, when challenged by protests orchestrated by Greenpeace and built around the resurgent German Green party, Shell was obliged not only to abandon its plans for the Brent Spar rig, but also to jeopardise its relationship with its erstwhile ally, the UK government — a government then left isolated and appearing ridiculous after the corporate volte face. The campaign of opposition had gained the support of European governments, notably that of Germany, European politicians of several hues, consumer organisations and religious and educational groups. It was heralded as a triumph for grass-roots protest and consumer power and was the first great victory for a Europe-wide mobilisation of public opinion. A Danish government spokesperson declared that: ‘People have been speaking with their hearts and not their brain on this. Ecology is now the ultimate political correctness. Today’s consumers have been brought up to think very differently to their parents.


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Copyright information

© Richard Muir 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Muir
    • 1
  1. 1.University College of Ripon and York St JohnUK

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