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Collective action to save the ancient temperate rainforest: social networks and environmental activism in Clayoquot Sound

David B. Tindall, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia
Joanna L. Robinson, Department of Sociology, Glendon College, York University


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In 1993 over 850 people were arrested for engaging in civil disobedience to prevent the clear-cut logging of pristine ancient temperate rainforests in Clayoquot Sound, Canada. This was the largest incident of this type in Canadian history, and has arguably been Canada’s most visible mobilization over a specific environmental issue. This study examines the factors that explain the ongoing participation of individuals in the environmental movement (more broadly, beyond participation in civil disobedience) to protect Clayoquot Sound during the period following the 1993 protest. We focus on the roles of interpersonal social networks and movement identification, and compare their statistical effects with the effects of values and attitudes on the level of participation of individuals in the movement. We compare survey data from members of Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS), a key environmental organization in this protest, with data collected from several surveys of the general public, and also from members of a local countermovement group (a proforest industry group that mobilized against the environmental movement). Although values and attitudes statistically differentiate members of FOCS from the other groups, these variables do not statistically explain ongoing differential participation in the movement amongst FOCS members. Rather, individual level of participation in this environmental movement is best explained by ego-network centrality (the pattern of ties each respondent has to contacts in the movement), as measured by the number of ties FOCS members have to others in a range of environmental organizations, and by their level of identification with the movement. Implications of this research for more recent mobilizations, such as against oil pipelines, are discussed, as are avenues for future research.

Key words

attitudes; Clayoquot Sound; countermovement; environmental activism; environmental movement; First Nations; forests; forestry; natural resources; protest; public opinion; SNA; social movement identity; social movements; social networks; values; wilderness preservation

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087