GB No. 2(21)/96
Limited space does not allow discussion of the book by Piotr Gliński in more than a sketchy manner, therefore only selected part of its contents and presented problems can be touched upon. Such a selection is inevitably of subjective character. My intention, however, is to point to the matters important to ecologists' societies in Poland, gathering people of various specialties (naturalists or engineers, humanists and economists) and various education.
The book consists of the PREFACE, nine chapters, BIBLIOGRAPHY (and a list of Polish ecologists' papers) as well as a LIST OF NAMES AND ABBREVIATIONS OF IMPORTANT ORGANISATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS MENTIONED IN THE TEXT. The chapters are grouped into three parts: I. Ruch społeczny w teorii socjalistycznej (Social Movement in the Socialist Theory), chapters 1-2, II. Kształtowanie się ruchu ekologicznego w Polsce (Emerging of the Ecological Movement in Poland), chapters 3-4, III. Zieloni w Trzeciej Rzeczypospolitej (The Green in the Third Republic), chapter 6-9. All chapters are divided into subchapters, and some of the latter - still into minor thematical parts.
In the PREFACE the author defines the content of the book as an attempt to find answers to a few questions: about the state of research regarding the theory of social movements and its contribution to comprehension of the Polish ecological movement; what is the Polish ecological movement, how it emerged and what is its role in the political changes that take place in Poland. Among other messages concerning the origin the book, there is also the author's declaration about his involvement in pro-environmental activities. He mentions his two roles: of a member and, simultaneously, of an observer.
The first part contains scientific analyses and it is aimed at clarifying terminology used in the other two parts devoted to the ecological movement in Poland.
The second part starts with a discussion on the ecological awareness of our society as a background for functioning of the ecological movement. Besides quoting the results of many studies, the phenomenon is considered in terms of its complexity. The author also presents the hierarchy of Polish values and the place of ecological ones among them. Facing the generally low standard of living and many needs and aspirations remaining unsatisfied, the ecological issues remain less important than everyday life problems. The latter, though of less immediate consequences, are not treated marginally. Ecological sensitivity and attitudes towards the environment are varied according to social groups and the strongest differentiating factor is the level of education (to much less extent generation or professional differences).
In the following chapters, the origins of the ecological movement in Poland are discussed, and a chronological outline of its history since the raise of the really independent state is presented. However the first publication on the subject has been written by Józefina Hrynkiewicz (Zieloni, 1990, the author reaches to the book), the fact that Gliński's book was written in 1995 (5 important years for ecologists) allows for a deeper perspective of the movement in the 80's. The author recalls the first timid attempts to organise people concerned with the rapid degradation of the environment that had been aggravating since the 60's and 70's; then the real eruption of interests and activities of the movement in 1980-81, during the short 16-month period of relative freedom of speech. This, in turn, resulted in establishment of the Polish Ecological Club - the first truly non-governmental ecological organisation of national range. The martial law could not stop the general interest in and concern for the state of the environment in the country. Furthermore the ecological issues became, though only to some extent, politically neutral to the authorities, which enabled educational actions and popularisation of the subject. Nevertheless, the ecological movement as a movement of protest was persecuted by the power-holders. Also, the author distinguishes various groups within the movement: "conservationist" or inspired by the tradition of counterculture (like the Workshop for All Beeings or the Green Federation).
Gliński also describes the attempts of "politisation" of the Polish ecological movement that was taking place in 1980-81, ending with emergence of the Polish Green Party at the end of 1988. Since its very beginning the party was torn by conflicts, caused by personal ambitions and animosities as well as, probably, infiltration. After the fall of the communist regime, when certain opinion polls proved that the interest in the ecological issues increased (however mainly decoratively), there appeared attempts to neglect this fact in local and national elections. Attempts were undertaken by some ecologists as well as amateurs of political success. The results of their efforts was a miserable image of the ecological movement, caused indirectly by poorly organised electoral campaigns by 3 "green" electoral committees in 1991. In the election of 1993 nobody used the ecological banners and the participating parties were generally disinterested in the problems. The Polish society, going through the system of transformation, exposed to pressures of everyday life (unemployment, fall of the standard of living) is still not prepared to accept parties that advocate changes possible to realise in the far future. Politicians seeking support of the electorate develop programs aimed at the nearest election. Whereas the basis of the ecological movement constitutes common values rather than interests, and part of its members, inspired by the traditions of counterculture, reject participation in any form of organised politics. Instead, it focuses on definite sustainable actions (e.g. the protest against the nuclear powerplant in Żarnowiec or "Dam the Dam") and changing the perception of ecological problems in society.
The third part discusses developments and perspectives of the ecological movement nowadays, in the conditions utterly different than in the People's Republic. The freedom of speech and organisations, as well as free international contacts, made the size and inner variety of the movement increase: new options, organisational forms, spheres of activity and other factors appeared. The author devotes much space to the counter-cultural, vegetarian and animal-protecting movements. The typology of such groups and their social background, as well as conditions decisive for their establishment, are discussed (i.e. tradition and ethos of the intelligentsia, cultural patterns, presence of appropriate professional circles, level of environmental danger).
Presenting the processes of ecological movement formation Gliński describes the ways of information exchange (e.g. the green press); contacts between organisations and groups at various levels: national and local; sponsoring: national and foreign; contacts with governmental institutions; increasing numbers of professionals, and, finally, obstacles for the further development of the movement.
The fragments discussing the place and role of the movement in shaping of the citizen-oriented society are very interesting and inspiring. At this point the problem of its axiological basis emerges, varying in different factions of the movement.
The book is closed by the chapter summing up the dissertation about the Polish ecological movement in theoretical perspective.
To end my rather superficial description of the book by Piotr Gliński I would like to share some comments that came to my mind.
The author made a great and successful effort to study the subject; the work shows his deep knowledge. The great involvement of the author is evident, especially that he makes use of his experiences as an activist and an observer in one. The fact, however, seems to define the perspective from which he perceives the Polish ecological movement. He exposes its counter-culture (alternative) faction as not treating other groups (e.g. those rooted in the ethos of intelligentsia) with equal interest. I have been a member of the Polish Ecological Club for years, but I believe the alternative trends are more promising for the future. Nevertheless, individual preferences should not overshadow the chronicler's duty to present the whole spectrum of sustainable initiatives in the future. At this point I feel slightly disappointed.
I would also argue with the author in other aspects but, unfortunately, the space is limited.
The book by Piotr Gliński can be called a fundamental sociological and historical study of the Polish ecological movement, which is also a pioneering one. It enables an insight into an important aspects of the Polish system's transformation. The work is also a milestone on the way to building self-awareness in our ecological movement. Every Polish ecologist should read it.
reprinted from Zielone Brygady, Sept. 96
transl. M. Maciejewska