Dominick's German Environmental Movement 1871 to 1971
By William Walter Kay
This is a critical condensation of Raymond H. Dominick III’s The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971. Highlights:
In 1918 Prussia’s Government Nature-care Center sought a directory of major German Nature-protection organizations (ones with notable achievements). They came up with 264 organizations. The Center’s bibliography of German Nature-protection publications listed 10,000 titles. The German conservation movement counted 100,000 active participants and was led by hundreds of aristocrats.
German forestry, ornithology and ecology academies were created in the 19th century as auxiliaries of the conservation movement.
The German conservation movement was overwhelmingly and durably aligned with Nazism. The Third Reich was a flamboyantly green regime.
A best-selling German novel, published in 1958, had a sub-plot about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming caused by CO2 emissions. The novelist founded an international environmental league, led by a former leader of the Hitler Youth, which was instrumental in launching the German Green Party.
The modern environmental movement with its mass organizations, confrontational tactics, media manipulation, politicized science andapocalyptic propaganda, consolidated in West Germanyin 1959-61 then spread to the English-speaking world.
Most arguments used by environmentalists today were articulated by conservationists during the reign of the Kaisers. Many conservation organizations operating in 1918 continue to operate. The line from 19th century Nature-protection to modern environmentalism is without gaps or reversals of direction.
The first “acid rain” scare was in 1864.
Ohio State University supported Dominick’s writing of The Environmental Movement in Germany with grants, release time and support staff. The German Academic Exchange Service funded Dominick’s research in Germany. Dominick thanks several German environmental organizations for their help. A pro-environmentalist bias is evident on every page of this book. All facts and quotes in the main text of this condensation are from Dominick’s text unless otherwise stated.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Environmental Movement in the Second Empire
The Environmental Movement During the Rise and Rule of Fascism
The Environmental Movement After 1945
The Environmental Movement in the Second Empire
“Second Empire” refers to Germany from its consolidation in 1871 to the 1918 republican revolution. A robust conservationist (a.k.a. Nature-protection) movement coalesced in the Second Empire. Dominick surveys the leadership of this movement, circa 1914, then remarks:
“The first striking characteristic of this leadership sample is the preponderance of aristocrats, a class that appears in the Nature protection leadership in a concentration about five times that of the population as a whole. The model for attachment to the conservation cause came from the top of the social pyramid, with Kaiser Wilhelm II himself encouraging the establishment of the Grunewald reserve in Berlin as well as parks in Luneburg Heath and across the Rhine River in Bonn in the Siebengebirge. The Kaiser’s royal cousin, Prince Wilhelm of Hohenzollern, set an even more dedicated example. He personally penned a preservationist treatise that bemoaned Nature’s victimization “by the state, by the big corporations, and by a few great capitalists.” In his own lands, Prince Wilhelm issued several model conservation decrees that dealt with protecting endangered species and preserving scenic beauty. In 1910 he hosted an address by Conwentz (see below) at his castle that was attended by 70 personages from Germany’s upper crust. A year later, when Conwentz’s government center moved into larger headquarters in Berlin, the prince delivered the opening address.”
Dominick elsewhere notes the “striking over-representation of the socio-economic elite” in the leadership of Nature-protection societies; and how “the monarch and the aristocracy played a significant part in creating the conservation movement.”
Kaiser Wilhelm II made numerous cash contributions to preservationist causes. Major conservation clubs were patronized by the Hohenzollerns and other Royal families from the outset. Hundreds of lesser aristocratscontributed materially to the take-off of the campaign and set aside portions of their estates as nature preserves. The landed estate’s main newspaper gave more coverage to dwindling bird populations than it did to human epidemics.
In 1876, when the Reichstag first debated a bird protection bill, its most persistent advocate, Prince Hohenlohe-Langenburg, was amongthe bill’s 14 aristocratic sponsors. In 1890, when the bill finally passed, both the German and Austrian Crown Princes belonged to bird protection societies.
As to why aristocrats embraced conservation, Dominick falters. On five occasions he asserts aristocrats were motivated by “noblesse oblige.” On a few occasions he entertains ulterior motives. He speculates: “governing authorities perceived they could use conservation as a diversionary ploy to tighten their own grip on power.” The aristocracy solidified their hegemony by disseminating agrarian romanticism and they draped the national flag around the conservationist cause. The aristocracy used conservationist achievements like the inauguration of Dresden’s King Albert Park (named after the reigning King of Saxony) to promote chauvinism.
The first Reichstag Deputy to denounce the automobile was Prince Zu Schonach-Carolath. Dominick speculates that as the Prince owned a splendid stable of horses and carriages he was motivated by distaste for a conveyance allowing lower classes to mimic the elite. Because the aristocracy’s material needs were met by the artisanal system, they disdained mass-produced consumer items. While Dominick concedes conservationism was a reaction to industry’s threat to agricultural primacy, he spares not a word to land economics. Nor does he acknowledge that German farmland and forests were almost entirely owned by aristocrats.
Forest management and estate beautification are tributaries of conservationism reaching back to the 1700s.Clearances reduced the extent of Germany’s forest cover from 85% in the Middle Ages to 26% in 1900. Resistance to clearances galvanized as German aristocrats established forestry schools in Aschaffenberg (1807), Tharandt (1816) and Berlin (1826). Forestry associations also sprouted; merging in 1872 into the Congress of German Foresters.
Anti-deforestation theory was boosted by the early 19th century writings of Alexander von Humboldt who claimed ancient de-forestation around the Mediterranean robbed present generations of the spiritual benefits of woodlands. He speculated that a dried lake bed he observed in Latin America had been silted up bydeforestation. He believed deforestation lowered water tables and depleted springs.
(Humboldt pioneered conservationism in other ways. His enormously popular Kosmos stressed the harmony of Nature and the therapeutic value of communion with Nature. He claimed national character derived from environmental influences. Dominick neglects to mention that Humboldt was, for the prominent half his of life, the in-house ‘court scientist’ of the Hohenzollerns.)
In 1864 foresters first blamed industrial sulphur dioxide emissions (acid rain) for killing trees. Foresters routinely censured clear-cutting and monoculture. Tharandt Forestry Institute’s director described a forest not as an aggregation of trees but rather as “an integrated, organic entity comprising all the innumerable living organisms that exist from the roots deep in the soil to the crowns that sway high in the sunlight, from the smallest microbe to the age-old tree veterans.”
By 1900 the Congress of Foresters had 2,000 members. Local associations contributed enormously to major conservation leagues and individual foresters joined local activist groups. This activism bore results. The trend toward diminishing forests was reversed. During the Second Empire German, forests increased by 1 million acres. Germany entered the 20th century with a proportion of lands under forest far higher than the Western European average; five times that of Britain.
Like foresters, fishermen were natural allies of conservationists. The fishing industry had not succumbed to modern methods and was thus threatened by progress. The Second Empire’s 50,000 endangered professional fishermen were often the first to sound the alarm regarding an industry’s alleged damage to waterways. Fisherman’s unions blamed depleted fish stocks on river modification.
During this period much progress was made straightening meandering rivers. The Rhine, between Basel and Mannheim, was reduced by 100 kilometres. River straightening improved navigability and allowed new towns to be built behind the levees. River regulation and floodplain reclamation opened new land for farms. Conservationists concocted a litany of potential hazards of river modification.
Conservationism spawned an auxiliary of biologists and botanists tasked with composing scientific arguments to undergird opposition to river regulation, deforestation, etc. These professors developed a paradigm wherein any modification of Nature was severely avenged. A cohort of profs at Jena University invented “ecology.” When the very political Professor Ernst Haeckel first deployed “ecology” in 1866, he was grandiloquently referring to “the total science of the connections of the organism to the surrounding external world.”
Academic appreciation of Nature was inseparable from Nature-conservation. The Botanical Society of Landshut bought a meadow to thwart its development. Bavarian botanists formed a society to protect Alpine plains from tourists and flower-pickers.
Ecologists furthered conservationism by fostering fears of the dangerous ways human-induced change ricocheted through the environment. Ecology offered conservationists a way of conceptualizing Nature different from the prevailing scientific paradigm. By claiming the biosphere had a scheme; ecologists invited a religion of Nature. Protecting the purity of Nature’s scheme became their half-scientific, half-mystical raison d’etre.
Ecology seeped from academic journals into general parlance. Bird protectors used ecological arguments to fight the view that some birds were harmful. To ecologists every bird had its place in Nature’s economy. The foremost bird protector, Baron von Berlepsh’s motto was: “Nature can best correct herself.” His Bird Protection (1899) went through 12 editions.
Circa 1900, Germany, like the rest of Europe, was in the “fin de siècle” zeitgeist. Countless Cassandras catalogued dire symptoms of decay and decline, especially mankind’s alienation from, and abuse of, Nature. Oswald Spengler, best known of these reactionaries, complained cities had begun “to overflow in all directions in formless masses to eat into to the decaying countryside.” The racist Paul de Lagarde, who anticipated Spengler’s critique decades earlier, prescribed a back-to-nature cure: “Better to split wood than to continue the contemptible life of civilization and education.
Objections to materialism and technology permeate early conservationist literature. In 1904 Ernst Rudorff lambasted the “industrial exploitation of every treasure and power of nature (and) the rape of the landscape by stream regulation, deforestation and other pitiless measures aimed solely at material advantages.” To Rudorff “every day the world becomes uglier, more artificial, more American.”
Conservationists used the phrase “robbing enterprise” to attack “unsustainable” economic practices. In “The Essence and the Extent of the Robbing Enterprise” (1904) Ernst Friedrich defined a robbing enterprise as one that extracted resources in excess of replacement. Reichstag Deputy, Prince zu Inn und Knyphausen bemoaned the unsustainable North Sea fish harvest. Fellow Deputy, Count von Possadowsky-Wehner, declared: “no one has the right to cause the most serious injuries … by managing a profit making enterprise.”
In his address to the 1913 national convocation of the German Youth Movement, philosopher-psychologist Ludwig Klages voiced a jeremiad about civilization in decline. His complaints about urbanization and vanishing species narrowed to an attack on utilitarianism.
Others had a hard time perceiving the problem. For instance, a mammoth project to regulate rivers was debated in the Reichstag in 1900 without mention of environmental impacts. As well, despite conservationist condemnations of urbanization, Germany went from being two-thirds rural in 1870 to two-thirds urban in 1900.
Conservationists resisted the practice of staking out new urban development in utilitarian squares. Their bible, Camillo Sitte’s City Construction According to Artistic Principles (1889), praised the charming, twisting, organic confusion of medieval towns. Sitte said old buildings and trees should be defended at any cost and that the movement of vehicles should be subordinated to artistic integrity. Sitte relocated from Vienna to Berlin where he published the world’s first urban planning journal.
The “volkisch” strand was present at conservationism’s inception. Conservationists dubbed “natural” communities as “das Volk” – a term laden with mystical, organic images. In 1815 Ernst Arndt tied German nationalism to Nature-protection in his essay: “Care and Preservation of the Forests and the Peasants.” To Arndt forest preservation and the preservation of nation were one: “the axe that is laid on the tree frequently becomes the axe that is laid on the entire nation.”
Volkisch conservationism appears in a pure form in Wilhelm’s Riehl’s The Natural History of the German People (1851-69). Riehl, an ethnography professor, denounced industry, urbanization, cosmopolitanism and liberalism. He also linked the well-being of the peasantry to forest protection. Those who saw trees as mere lumber missed the point for “the German people need the forest like man needs wine.”
Riehl’s ideas reverberated through early conservationism. Rudorff quoted him at length in his 1911 essay “The Forest as Teacher”, which asserted Germany’s wellspring lay in “the mythic darkness of the primordial forest” and “Nothing has been more influential and determining in the formation of the national soul than – the forest.”
Theories of the inherent worth of animals circulated in the conservation movement, especially in the well-read pages of Kosmos magazine. A 1907 Kosmos article argued animals should be treated as people. The era’s most popular advocate of empathy for wild animals was Hermann Lons, a novelist whose work often wandered into mystical-organic nationalism. His famous short story “Isegrim’s Labyrinth” adopts the vantage point of a wolf driven from his lair by developers. The wolf is chased by farmers and almost hit by a car before escaping into the wilds of Russia. Lons consistently counselled humans to tread lightly on Earth.Two of his books sold over 100,000 copies apiece.
There was little Christian conservationist commentary, but one Austrian theologian achieved popularity by claiming God so loved certain species he designed them to survive difficult Alpine environments uninhabitable by humans. An ornithologist preached birds deserved protection because they were God’s creations. Conversely, other conservationists accused Christianity of causing environmental degradation. Klages accused Christianity of exchanging “multiplicity and inexhaustible fullness of life (for) the homeless alienation of a spirituality divorced from the world.” Some conservationists contemplated resurrecting paganism or Goethe’s pantheism. Klages endorsed eastern mysticism as a guide to the proper interaction with Nature. Ecologists also arrived at mystical-pantheist conclusions.
Not-in-My-Backyard (NIMBY) campaigns were successful in the Second Empire if the targeted industry contradicted traditional land uses; and if the campaigners were “wealthy and well-connected.” The practice dates to the early 1800s when locals sought remedies to businesses whose operations, they argued, threatened health or property. Often the focus was historical preservation.
In 1828 quarrying on Drachenfels mountain threatened an old castle. Outraged preservationists successfully petitioned the Prussian government to purchase the area around the quarry and set it aside as one of Germany’s first parks. (In the 1880s Prussia paid several million Reich-marks (RM) to turn the surrounding 6 square kilometres into Siebengebirge Nature Preserve.)
Rudorff’s seminal essay “On the Relationship of Modern Life to Nature” (1880) protested a proposed railway for sightseers on Drachenfels. Tourists were “only bar-hopping in an altered form.” These irreverent intruders lacked “genuine, living piety for Nature.” The German Youth Movement and League for the Homeland-protection later repeated these criticisms.
Conservationists found targets for their ire in “unsightly” iron bridges and “ugly” power lines. When confronting the nascent hydro-electric industry, Bavarian conservationists demanded power lines be kept out of sight of picturesque spots. In 1891 a proposed foundry in Hamburg was blocked after activists convinced authorities it would depreciate property values of wealthy suburbanites. Around the same time, wealthy activists from the Ahr River Valley simply bought an offending quarry and closed it.
The Society Against the Pollution of Rivers, Soil and Air campaigned against flush-toilet central sewer systems. (In 1877 this Society split from the Society for Public Health because the public health activists lacked ecological perspectives.) To save rivers they proposed manual, door-to-door collection of excrement. They persuaded the Prussian government to ban sewer construction in Frankfurt and Cologne. Eventually counter-pressures compelled the government to lift this ban. In 1903 the Society contended: “the blame for the increasing pollution and infection of our entire waterways belongs above all to the copying of the English water closet.” The Society fought for manual excrement collection until 1911 when they admitted defeat and disbanded.
The era’s largest conservationist battle was waged over Berlin’s extensive woodlands. When plans to clear these woods for urban development surfaced in 1907, twenty-six protesting petitions bombarded Prussia’s legislature. Protests came from property owners associations, botanical societies and the Berlin Forest Protection Society. One was signed by 500 famous Berliners. Berlin newspapers publicized Forest Protection Rallies. In 1910 the mayors of Berlin and its suburbs signed a formal objection. Then Wilhelm II, the forest-owner, stepped in. He fired the Minister who proposed the development and assured the mayors the forests would be spared. This begged the question of compensation. First, it was floated that Berliners should pay market prices for these woods – 175 million RM. Later, Chancellor Prince Bethmann-Hollweg talked Wilhelm’s ministers down to a paltry50 million RM. Thus Berliners were taxed an additional 50 million RM to preserve green spaces they previously enjoyed for free.
Another large conservation campaign began in 1910 after Bavaria’s legislature approved a dam on the Walchensee River. The initial complainants were 34 owners of Walchensee shoreline property. Although several of the largest conservation groups opposed this dam, they were unsuccessful. The dam was approved in 1917 and began generating electricity in 1923.
The Isar Valley Society was founded in 1902 to protect the banks of the Isar River from industry and urbanization. They recruited 777 in their first year and another 800 by 1914. They raised money from philanthropists and the state to purchase threatened parcels of land. Their first purchase, 200 acres near a popular bridge, cost 50,000 RM. The money came from two brewery owners, a Munich newspaper, and the City of Munich (20,000 RM). In 1912 Prince Regent Leopold (Wittelsbach) gave 5,000 RM toward another purchase. The Society met quietly with government officials to secure development-thwarting regulations. Bavaria’s Interior Minister, who attended the Society’s founding meeting, prohibited the sale of state-owned Isar Valley land to developers and he prohibited scenery-impairing construction on private property in the valley.
The Bavarian State Nature-care Committee was formed in 1905 by a clique of cabinet ministers. (The state of Hess already had a similar organization). Their first meeting was attended by the Alpine Society, Isar Valley Society and reps from botanical, ornithological and educational groups. (An engineers’ society attended only upon their own request.) The Committee prepared expert reports; advised the government; coordinated the conservation movement; and promoted the “awakening and spread of a sense of nature protection.” By 1913 the Committee had built a pyramid of 127 sub-committees and 2,330 local overseers. The Committee persuaded the state to protect endangered species and regulate billboards. On the other hand, when a railway was built through a renowned Bavarian natural area, the Committee was not even consulted. The clique who created the Committee also erected the private Bavarian Conservation League, which duplicated the Committee’s work almost exactly.
In 1897 Prussia’s Education Minister dispatched Hugo Conwentz to draft a report on Nature-monuments. (Born of humble means, Conwentz studied botany by virtue of a scholarship. By 1879 he was director of a Danzig museum and was local secretary of both the Natural Science Association and the Botanical-Zoological Society.) Conwentz’s report, published 1904, depicted the manifold dimensions and causes of damage to Nature. He declared:
“Not only here in Prussia but in almost every cultured country, one has come to the conclusion that something must happen immediately in order to prevent a complete destruction of primordial nature.”
Flying through three editions in 1904, this book inspired conservationists nationwide. A 1906 decree placed Conwentz in charge of the Prussian Government Center of Nature-monument-care. By1914 Conwentz delivered 100 speeches. His dozen books and brochures circulated widely. Seeking to enlist the entire population into Nature-protection, the Centre bunched regional committees, natural science societies and teachers’ associations into 42 sub-committees each led by a state official. Sub-committees sponsored lectures and published newsletters to crystallize Nature-protection consciousness in ever-widening social circles. Of 186 senior figures within this system, 46 were aristocrats.
The first national bird group was founded in 1875. By 1900, five national clubs claimed bird protection as their central aim. The largest, the German League for Bird Protection, founded in 1899 by Frau Lina Hahnle, had 41,000 members and owned 50 bird preserves by 1914. Of the League’s 70 “life members,” nine were aristocrats. Membership dues were nominal because dues were not a principal source of funds. Large memberships were a means to lobby governments. The League lobbied for international treaties particularly regarding the killing of birds for the fashion industry.The League’s inaugural national Bird Protection Meeting in 1910 was presided over by the King of Wurttemberg. These annual meetings attracted princes and high officials mostly from south German states. The Kingdom of Wurttemberg distributed the League’s Notebook on Nature Protection to 45,000 students. From its inception the League dovetailed bird protection with patriotism.
The Nature Park Society arose both from efforts to prevent urbanization of the Luneburg Heath (a pasture south of Hamburg) and from efforts to create a park near Salzburg. In 1906 a Lutheran group began buying and setting aside land in the Heath. A 1908 speech given in Vienna by an ornithologist proposed celebrating the 50th anniversary of Emperor Franz Josef’s reign by creating an Alpine reserve near Salzburg. Austria’s Imperial Bird Protection League endorsed the plan. At the Nature Park Society’s founding conclave (Munich, 1909) twin manifestos bore the signatures of Ernst Rudorff, Herman Lons, Hermann Hesse, Count von Zeppelin, Henry Fairfield Osborne et al. Of the 386 signatories, 52 were aristocrats. The Society recruited 11,000 in its first year. By 1918 it had 14,000 members in Germany alone. The Society purchased its first Luneburg Heath plot in 1910. On Wilhelm II’s impetus, the Prussia government held three lotteries between 1911 and 1914 to raise funds for the Society. The 3 million RM raked in was topped up with 50,000 RM from Wilhelm’s wallet. By 1918 the Society had acquired 8,913 acres in the Luneburg Heath and 2,819 acres near Salzburg.
By 1914 conservationists campaigned on a tangled menagerie of concerns including: damage to forest and countryside by railroads and highways; the plague of billboards; the loss of rural charm; the canalization of rivers; the damming of waterfalls; the endangerment of birds, etc. The movement proffered a smorgasbord of reasons as to why Nature must be protected including: the therapeutic value of wilderness; the tragedy of species extinction; the countryside’s importance to patriotism; pollution’s impact on health; obligations to future generations, etc.
Conservationist agendas and world-views overlapped with those of animal protectionists. Both movements raged against the killing of birds by the fashion industry and both opposed zoos. Both were connected to vegetarianism. The German Animal Protection Society’s 1884 call for nature reserves to protect animals was one of the first pleas for nature parks in Germany.
Also overlapping conservationism was historical preservationism. As conservationists protected unspoiled countryside, preservationists protected traditional architecture and customs.
Nature-protection organizations were bolstered by ancillary organizations. The influential sabre-rattling Pan-German League campaigned for national parks. The 70,000 science aficionados around Kosmos magazine were frequently treated to conservationist articles, especially ones promoting parks. The 5,000-strong Garden City Movement fought for urban parks (“lungs of the city”). The Durer Bund, founded to pursue pure German culture, published articles like “Extermination of Birds for Female Fashion” and “The Preservation of Our Animal World.” Half the articles in the Bund’s journal dealt with Nature-protection or historic preservation. The Bund was linked to 300 societies. The German Youth Movement, like most volkisch groups, promoted communion with, and protection of, nature. The Youth Movement’s journal, circulation 25,000, endorsed conservation. The Youth Movementconvened in wilderness settings and hiking was a common activity. Their anthem rang: “Green is the colour of Nature… We surge forth into the fresh green as free comrades there to gather for green is our colour.”
The German League for Homeland-protection was founded in 1904 by Ernst Rudorff to unite ethnic and historical preservationist clubs. By 1916 it boasted 250 clubs, some of which were massive. Baden’s Homeland-protection Society had 14,000 members; Saxony’s had 40,000. The League protected countrysides, native species, ruins and unique geological formations. Later pronouncements accentuated Nature conservation. In 1916 an entire issue of their journal was devoted to Nature-protection. The League led an unsuccessful drive to stop a dam on the Rhine near Laufenburg.
By 1914 every state in the Second Empire had a public conservation centre. While bureaucrats took the lead, the line between public and private conservation blurred. Private conservation societies routinely paid their expenses and bought land with taxpayer’s money.
Conservationists relentlessly pressed for Nature-protection instruction in public schools. In response, education bureaucrats issued a flood of circulars encouraging Nature-protection. Biological science instruction was revamped to focus on the “mutual influence and inner connectedness of the various life forms.” A leading biology manual had a chapter entitled “Living Nature as a Branch of the Environment.” A 1905 report by a private Education Commission advocated replacing the emphasis on the physiology of individual organisms with courses emphasizing ecology. The 1907 a Bavarian teaching plan stressed “ecological relationships.” In the same year a memo to Prussian schools stated:
“It belongs to the noblest assignments of the school to cultivate in the upcoming generations the fine sensibility that not only fellow men and animals, but also the countryside, stones, and plants have a right to caring consideration.
Teachers played prominent roles in local conservation clubs and teachers’ conventions regularly featured discussions of conservation.
In 1918 the Prussian Government Center commissioned a directory of major German Nature-protection organizations (ones with notable achievements). They came up with 264 organizations. The Center’s bibliography of German Nature-protection publications listed 10,000 titles.
Cumulative membership in the Isar Valley Society, Nature Parks Society, Bavarian Conservation League and the League for Bird Protection grew from 5,000 in 1905 to over 50,000 in 1914. Cumulative membership in all Nature-protection societies stood at 100,000. (Germany’s population was 60 million.)
Despite this, outside the movement and its press, conservation was a marginal issue before 1914. After 1914, WWI completely elbowed conservation off the public stage.
Industrialists were rare in conservation groups; rarer still were workers. The sole movement outreach to workers, the Vienna-based Friends of Nature, recruited 30,000 members between 1895 and 1914. The Friends were “volk comrades” led by patriots who expelled 50 chapters for leftist tendencies. (This did not spare them from being banned by the Nazis.)
The Environmental Movement During the Rise and Rule of Fascism
“The German countryside must be preserved under all circumstances, for it is and has forever been the source of the strength and greatness of the German people.”
“Man should never fall into the misconception that he has really risen to be lord and master of Nature… rather he must understand the fundamental necessity of the rule of Nature and comprehend how even his own existence is subordinated to these laws of eternal struggle.”
Presumably a text covering German politics from 1871 to 1971 would allocate a third of its pages to the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Dominick allocates about 10% of his text to this period. The sole chapter allocated to this era concludes:
“The argument developed here has tried to reduce the damage done to the reputation of the conservation campaign by its highly visible ties to Nazism.”
The precise overlap between the Nazi Party and the conservation movement is unknown because:
“The memberships of the major conservation groups from the 1930s seem to have been lost or destroyed.”
Not to worry because: “I (Dominick) have compiled a sample of 18 leaders of the Nature protection movement” from which he infers the extent of the overlap. Dominick does not show how he drew this list. He does not show the list. Nevertheless, he gloats “the surviving records indicate that only one joined the Nazi Party before 1933.”
Nine from his list joined the Nazi Party after 1933. One tried to join but was rejected.
(Dominick forgets there were many German fascist organizations before 1933. This oversight has been used to make ultra-green Walter Darre appear as a Johnny-cum-lately to the movement when in fact he joined the fascist militia, Steel Helmet, in 1919.)
Dominick’s main defence of German conservationism is that the movement was an amalgam of political currents of which “volkisch” conservationists were but one. He concedes:
“The volkisch variety of Nature protection was centrally and durably aligned with Nazism.”
He also concedes:
“This volkisch kind of Nature protection predominated in Germany by the 1930s.”
Moreover, he readily admits that during the 1920s most German conservationists promoted national regeneration, pan-Germanism, reactionary aesthetics, and racism. They were anti-communist, anti-materialist, anti-modernist and anti-technology. They had a romantic vision of the peasantry and they spewed “blood-and-soil” rhetoric. Dominick again:
“In the Weimar and Nazi periods, the belief that unspoiled Nature kept the nation pure infected the majority of Germany’s conservationists.”
In the 1920s Nature-protectionists demanded that ethnic Germans in the territories lost after WWI, as well as Germans from Switzerland, Austria and faraway Estonia, be united in a single nation.The founders of Westphalia’s Homeland Preservation League insisted their focus should not be architecture or landscape but Race. A Nature Park Society publication paralleled the impact of pollution on German forests and waters to the influx of an “unwashed brood of Croats and Pollacks.”
(Dominick’s case is weaker than it seems. His other main current of conservationism, the ecology/pantheism current, is said to lack intrinsic ties to Nazism. This is untrue. Top Nazis were raving ecologists and ecology’s founder, Haeckel, exhibited clear proto-Nazi tendencies.)
The Nazis venerated Wilhelm Riehl, whose “blood-and-soil” Natural History of the German People enjoyed four editions during the Third Reich, including a special 1944 edition for the Wehrmacht. Among those favouring blood-and-soil were Darre, master of Nazi agitation in the agricultural sector, and Alfred Rosenberg, the Party’s chief theoretician and director of the Fighting League for German Culture. Rosenberg’s list of Party-endorsed books included the works of Riehl, Schoenichen’s The Magic of the Wilderness in German Lands and a dozen other books praising peasants and excoriating cities.
The Nazi Party newspaper featured environmental stories in 35% of its issues, sometimes on the front page. Every time an environmental issue was discussed, the editors took the side of the preservationists. The April 5, 1930 issue expressed outrage that French occupation troops in the Saar intended to log “one of the largest unbroken forest areas of Germany… a true nature park.” The paper’s deep anti-capitalism also permeated the writings of Nature-protectionists; appearing prominently in the inaugural issue Nature and Homeland which sermonized:
“…the unthinking drive for speculative riches without conscience or feeling must not be allowed to combine with the newly acquired technical powers to make the Earth uninhabitable.”
In 1920 the leading bird lovers’ magazine squawked:
“The individual must again understand that he is inseparably linked to the prosperity of the whole: the vermin who will not understand that must be so far repressed that they no longer can poison the entire organism.”
This anti-capitalism had nothing to do with communism. In 1907 Rudorff preached that protecting natural environments counteracted the “ideals of the red international.” His disciples in the 1920s contended preservationism inoculated the Volk against Bolshevism.
Nazis reiterated Rudorff’s denunciations of aesthetic degeneration whether in the form of jazz music or the sleek glass and steel of Bauhaus architecture. The Party joined conservationist clubs in opposing a memorial to Hermann Lons in the Luneburg Heath because of its Bauhaus style.
The Nazis were enmeshed in the animal protection movement. Their Fuhrer, a vegetarian, declared himself a resolute enemy of cruelty to animals.
Conservationism survived the 1918 Revolution with enough clout to insert into the Weimar Constitution Article 150: “the monuments of history and of Nature as well as the countryside enjoy the protection and care of the state.”
Despite this, the Weimar era was characterized by a dearth of conservation legislation. Each national conservation congress (1925, 1927 and 1929) called on the Reichstag to implement Article 150. At the 1931 congress an exasperated speaker cried “How long do the government and the Reichstag intend to stand idle on this matter?” Even in Prussia and Bavaria conservation legislation stalled.
New Nature-protection societies emerged in the early 1920s. The all-male “fighting league,” Mountain Watch, set out to combat “sins against Nature in the mountains.” They patrolled the Alps admonishing anyone found littering or picking flowers. They prowled train stations looking for rural women selling wild flowers. The Conservation Ring of Berlin brought together conservation leagues, hunting clubs, hiking unions and ornithological societies. By 1925 gross membership of groups associated with the Ring approached 5 million.The People’s League for Conservation, founded in 1922, in five years arranged 256 Nature-protection exhibits in Berlin and countless more across Germany. The rival League for Care of Nature and Homeland also appeared in the 1920s.
The League for Bird Protection lost a quarter of its members in the 1920s; stagnating at 30,000. Under the Third Reich the League experienced a membership surge; reaching a record high of 55,000 in 1941.
The Bavarian Conservation League was down to 535 members in 1918. This grew to 8,000 in 1925 due to its merger with the Bavarian State Committee for Land-care. By 1930 the League boasted 13,000 members; by 1939 membership had risen to 28,000.
During WWI conservationists claimed Nature-protection served the Fatherland as visions of unspoiled homeland inspired the troops. Naturalist Konrad Guenther argued Germany lost WWI because “its foundation was not rooted firmly enough in the soil.” He viewed “the initial environment for the evolving volk is the primordial homeland.” As Germans were forest dwellers, forests had to be preserved if the nation was to be preserved. His Nature Protection sold 10,000 copies during WWI and enjoyed a second edition in 1919. Guenther, a leader in both the Nature Park Society and League for Bird Protection, penned a dozen conservationist books. “With the trained eye of the naturalist he reported that people with blond hair and blue eyes had stronger feeling for Nature than did other people.” He became obsessed with racial variations in skull size.
Paul Schultze-Naumburg was an architect of country mansions and chairman of the League for Homeland-protection. He claimed indifference to Nature-protection arose from racial decline; thus, Nature-protectionism, and Germany, were threatened by the rise of the sub-humans. His The Shaping of the Landscape by Man (1928) championed the ecological role of forests and warned of the ecological consequences of mining. It called for biological controls of insects and comprehensive water regulation. It denounced the ugliness of modernity and the “depressing spread of an international democracy.”In 1929 Schultze-Naumburg joined a cabal of writers that included Rosenberg and Darre. He was a favourite speaker at Rosenberg’s Fighting League and was Darre’s patron while Darre wrote the classic New Nobles from Blood and Soil. Like Darre, he toyed with replacing Christianity with paganism. In 1930, Thuringia’s Interior Minister (a Nazi) appointed Schultze-Naumburg director of a prestigious art school. Schultze-Naumburg joined the Nazi Party in 1930 and was soon a Nazi Reichstag Deputy.
The early writings of Walter Schoenichen, Conwentz’s successor at the Prussian Government Centre, “exhibited the volkisch rhetoric about race and nation that merged so easily with National Socialism.” In Methods and Techniques of Natural History Education (1926) he wrote: “There is no doubt that a racial-hygienic collapse threatens our volk.” The book encouraged racially valuable women to reproduce and discouraged breeding by degenerates. In 1928, when he became editor of Nature Protection, he changed its subtitle to Friends of the German Homeland. His application for Nazi Party membership was approved in February 1933 (hence was submitted before January 30, 1933). Nature Protection’s post-January 1933 cover sported a photo of children marching with a swastika flag. Inside, Schoenichen’s “The German People must be Cleansed – and the German Countryside” explored the unbridgeable gulf between Aryan and non-Aryan relationships to Nature. He contended Nature-protection was about politics not birds; moreover he claimed elite conservationists had been saying this for years. His Nature Protection in the Third Reich (1934) praises the deep Aryan bond to Nature. He prayed someday Germany would lead a European Nature-protection movement. He led conservation clubs into the Nazi’s Reich League for Volk Character and Homeland. By early 1934, the League for Homeland-protection, Bavarian Conservation League, and League for Bird Protection had joined; their pre-1933 leaders remained in place. (The Bavarian Conservation League later welcomed Nazi Gaulitier Adolf Wagner as their overseer.)
Dr. Werner Lindner, Schultze-Naumburg’s successor atop the League for Homeland-protection, preached anti-modernism long before 1933. He delayed joining the Nazi Party until 1938 but openly celebrated Nazism in 1933. At the founding meeting of the Reich League for Volk Character and Homeland he expressed hope the new regime would repudiate the Weimar Republic’s materialistic approach to Nature and he denounced capitalism for violating “the laws of the household of Nature.”
Alwin Seifert designed the autobahn – a marriage of technology and Nature. During construction he insisted ten trees be planted for each one cut down. Topsoil removed during landscaping was painstakingly saved. Autobahns avoided straight lines to adhere to the land’s natural curves. After joining the Nazi Party he recruited a legion of “landscape advocates.” His water obsession compelled him to memo Deputy Fuhrer Hess criticizing the Labour Front for ignoring ecological laws in its projects affecting waterways. Not satisfied with the response, he went public with his warnings of desiccation at the 1936 Nature Protection Conference in a speech entitled “The Conversion of Germany into a Steppe.” Exploiting images of dust clouds over the American prairie, he claimed similar devastation awaited Germany. His theories, always couched in Nazi terminology, generated hysteria.
The zealously pro-Nazi League for Bird Protection’s 1933 Annual Report crowed:
“A miracle has occurred… Germany has pulled itself together… Joyously we stand behind the Fuhrer, vowing to use our entire strength for his high goal.”
Subsequent Annual Reports celebrated the rearmament, reacquisition of the Saar, and the Anschluss. They parroted Nazi propaganda and exploited their official endorsement to gobble up rival clubs.
Immediately after January, 1933 the Bavarian Conservation League proclaimed:
“No time has been so favourable for our work as the present one under the swastika banner of the national government…converting the love of Nature into the great love of nation and Fatherland…Nature determines race and all expressions of the race. Therefore above all Nature must be preserved in its individuality…. The German man is not German without the German countryside.”
This enthusiasm was justified. More was done to advance conservationism in the 18 months following January 1933 than was done in the entire Weimar era. In February 1933 Hitler’s cabinet quashed a proposed railway in the Bode Valley for being a “profanation of a holy relic of our forefathers.” Days later Prussia issued detailed animal and plant protection ordinances. In November 1933 the Nazis passed radical cruelty to animal prohibitions. In 1934 the powerful Labour Front and the League for Bird Protection co-sponsored a week-long conference to instil Nature-protectionism into Labour Front personnel. The Reich’s 1934 hunting law was “the most progressive in the world at the time.” In 1934 billboards in the countryside were banned.The municipal park system doubled in size by mid-1934. (The Nazis later established an unprecedented number of nature preserves.)
Goering, the Reich-Master of the Hunt and the Forest, used the 100,000 acre nature reserve around his estate to foster endangered flora and fauna. A conservation journal quoted him saying: “Deep and understanding feeling for Nature is the foundation of every culture.”
The Imperial Conservation Law (1935) gave Goering oversight over all conservation agencies. The law fulfilled conservationist’s dreams. Not only did it protect plants, animals, nature-monuments, and preserves, it extended protection to any:
“…landscape in free Nature whose preservation on account of rarity, beauty, distinctiveness or an account of scientific, ethnic, forest, or hunting significance lies in the general interest.”
The law required governments at all levels to consult Nature-protectionists before undertaking any measure that might alter the countryside on public or private property.
The Bavarian Conservation League praised the law, saying it “secured for all time the most valuable legacy of the past ages of our Volk.”The League for Bird Protection chirped in:
“From the bottom of their hearts, all those who cherish Nature protection thank the Imperial Office of Forestry for this great achievement.”
The Environmental Movement After 1945
“After the destruction of the Third Reich, the Nature protectors huddled far from the centre of the political stage, wondering how they might now adopt the “protective colouration” of a restored democracy. As it turned out, years would have to pass before the embarrassment of Nazi connections would fade and a resurrected ecological vision, one untarnished by blood and soil, could mobilize a new generation of environmental enthusiasts.”
In October 1945 Bavaria’s Interior Minister reminded his underlings that Nature-protection remained a paramount duty. Many conservation officials were in detention, some accused of war crimes. The Allies scrutinized state appointees, purging many Nature-protectionists for Nazi activity.
While “there is no evidence” Hans Klose joined the Nazi Party, as head of the Imperial Conservation Office, he was Goering’s right-hand man for seven years. British authorities kept Klose in charge of the Imperial Conservation Office and paid his and his staff’s salaries. Klose re-contacted state conservation officials across West Germany and invited them to a conference in 1947. The 24 bureaucrats attending founded the Conference of Regional Conservation Authorities, which successfully inserted conservation clauses into the 11 state constitutions. Article 75 of the Federal Government’s Basic Law (1949) also included guidelines for Nature-protection and Land-care. (The Imperial Conservation Law remained in force until 1958.) Klose established the private German Conservation Ring in1950. By 1954 the Ring had 62 member organizations with a cumulative membership of 750,000.
West Germany’s 11 states guarded their privileges jealously, including their jurisdiction over conservation. After the Imperial Conservation Law was struck down, states developed conservation laws to suit local tastes. The mere existence of a national conservation office was controversial. In 1952, the Federal Bundesrat, in a 10 to 1 vote, overruled the stubborn Bavarians to establish a Central Office of Nature-Protection and Land-Care. Nevertheless, until the 1960s the conservation fight occurred mostly at the state level. As ever, the boundary between public and private blurred and both levels of government funded conservation activity.
Conservationists indefatigably pushed Nature-protection in education. A national conference of state education ministers in 1952 resolved to incorporate Nature-protection and Land-care instruction into all classrooms in all schools at all levels. These subjects were deemed essential character building tools. All students had to learn the economic rationales for conservation.
The Bavarian State Conservation Agency’s director, Dr. Otto Kraus, gave 11 talks on Bavarian state radio between 1949 and 1952. His documentary film “Nature in Danger” was financed by the Bavarian state and premiered before the combined houses of the state legislature in 1952. This documentary criticized river regulation, dam building, deforestation, air pollution and trash disposal. Within a year 15,000 Bavarian students had seen the film. Instruction in animal, plant and landscape protection became compulsory for Bavarian students. Engelhardt’s treatise on Nature-protection was gifted to students.
Bavarian Conservation League membership dipped to 15,000 in 1948 (down from a Third Reich high of 30,000). Stagnant membership resulted partly from the fact the League:
“… continued to pursue its goals closely, indeed almost clandestinely, in cooperation with the regime. Having a solid ally in the minister-president of the Bavarian government, Dr. Wilhelm Hoegner and his successors, the leaders of the Bavarian League preferred to work toward the organization’s goals away from the glare of publicity … (with) no inclination to push for popular recruitment.”
The Bavarian state awarded the League 10,000 DM per year. In 1955 the League convinced Hoegner to squelch proposals to develop the shores of Starnberger Lake, south of Munich.
The late 1940s witnessed a movement-wide realignment toward mass recruitment, demonstrations and lawsuits. Increased membership dues and membership drives provided more funds for propaganda and bureaucratic work. League for Bird Protection membership grew from 26,000 in 1948 to 57,000 in 1965. Nature Parks Society membership surged from under 2,000 in 1950 to over 6,000 by 1960. A new generation of groups emerged as well.
After WWII German trees were felled for fuel and reparations. In response, Wilhelm Muncker published Cry for Help of the Dying Forest (1946) and a leading newspaper issued a supplement entitled “Forest in Danger – People in Danger.” This set the stage for the 1947 launch of the Protective Association for German Forests – a group, led by state bureaucrats, that lobbied politicians and educators and organized countless campaigns. By 1975 the Association had 13,000 members. They were aided by Engelhardt’s Nature Protection: Its Most Important Principle and Demands (1954) which revived the eco-scares of desiccation, soil erosion and water table recession. Engelhardt blamed political instability and the communist menace on deforestation.
Some of the impetus behind the 1951 founding of the Alliance for Protection of German Waters came from commercial and recreational fishermen, notably the Bavarian Fisheries Council, who complained of declining salmon runs. The Alliance congregated biologists, bureaucrats, politicians and reps from industrial, tourism and farming associations. Their goal was restricting construction activity and regulating water use. Groups within the Alliance claimed one million members by 1954. The West German President gave keynote speeches at Alliance conferences, and federal cabinet ministers chaired the organization. The Alliance helped draft the 1957 Water Law and later laws dealing with detergents and the “Oil Plague” (petroleum spills). Alliance influence on the media was evident in 1954 when banner headlines in major newspapers screamed “Water Cycle in Greatest Danger,” “Water: A Commodity in Short Supply” and “The Rhine Still Stinks.” The campaign against detergents was facilitated by Der Spiegel’s publishing of a daunting list of damages suds were allegedly doing. The Alliance also made much of the potential damage to water by radioactive fallout from distant nuclear weapons testing. In 1961 one newspaper broached this concern under the headline “Scientists Say – Pure Murder.” The Oil Plague campaign was aided by a Conservation Ring poster depicting a tentacled monster creeping across Germany under the caption: “Unleashed Oil – Ruin.”
(Dominick notes: “Because the Alliance repeated the point so often it became a commonplace that a single litre of gasoline could make a million gallons of water unpotable.” This is one of many cases where Dominick uncritically relays a dubious assertion made by environmentalists.)
The Alliance published several books in the 1950s. Erich Hornsmann’s If We Did Not Have the Water claimed Germanys’ dwindling water supplies were contaminated by radiation and the Oil Plague. Hornsmann opposed river regulation, deforestation, wetland reclamation and modern agricultural methods. Another Alliance publication, Polluted Waterways, was illustrated with disgusting color plates of fouled water. The author denied there were any tolerable levels of pollutants. His “synergistic” approach recognized the needs of fish and repudiated the need for progress. His recommendations were “biocentric rather than anthropocentric.” In both books aesthetics and romanticism were absent as were appeals to homeland-protection. “Sounding downright utilitarian” both books concluded “the only solution to the present difficulties lay in planning.” By 1972 the Alliance had published 30 books.
The German Working Group for Fighting Noise, founded in the mid-1950s, operated like a traditional conservation group – lobbying behind the scenes. Their influence on the media was evident in banner headlines such as “Noise Makes Us Sick” (1957) and in an early-1960s Der Spiegel article on the noise-induced hysteria epidemic. In 1958 Bonn’s mayor claimed noise was a “crisis.”
In1947 American authorities allowed the League for Bird Protection to resume operations. Herman Hahnle, son of the founder, became president – a position he held until 1965. He relied on philanthropic and state funds to carry on League activism and to maintain 200 preserves and an experimental ornithology station. During the 1950s the League received 20,000 DM per year from the Federal Government. At the end of the 1950s the League boasted: “the basic idea of conservation has already completely and universally penetrated the state.”The League’s promotion of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – a best-seller in Germany – contributed to an upsurge of members. Hahnle’s successor accomplished little, but in 1969 a new leadership’s modernization effort and a colourful new magazine, The Birds and US, boosted membership to 75,000 by 1980. (In the 1960s most traditional conservation groups produced glossy colour magazines.)
During the 1950s and 1960s Dr. Bernard Grizmek used his position as host of the weekly television show “A Place for Animals” to praise Nature’s intrinsic value and to call for endangered species protection. After Grizmek took over the Conservation Ring (with Engelhardt as Vice President) membership grew rapidly. By 1969 the Ring’s 100 participating organizations boasted two million members. These organizations included traditional conservation groups plus a myriad of hiking, fishing and hunting clubs, animal protection leagues and the German Equestrian Society.
Clergymen joined the resurrected crusade. In 1955 a Lutheran Minister from Bonn concluded his weekly radio broadcast with a prayer for healthy air. In 1957 an Evangelical Church-sponsored air pollution conference attracted 150 politicians. The Evangelical Church then joined the Swabian Alps Society to sponsor annual conferences throughout the 1960s. These were well attended by politicians, conservationists, educators and clergy. The 1964 conference stressed mankind’s duty to protect the environment and called on Evangelical ministers to sermonize toward these ends. Wilhelm Lienenkamper, a leading Christian conservationist, complained the Book of Genesis was being misread to mean God wanted Man to rule Earth. Lienenkamper’s reading was:
“…the position of man on earth is not that of an absolute ruler responsible to no one but rather that of the faithful housekeeper and ward for the rest of creation, who at any time can be called to responsibility and reckoning.”
(Dominick fails to mention that Lienenkamper was a dedicated Nazi and a flamboyant activist throughout the Third Reich.)
The urgency of post-war reconstruction checked the preservationist drive. In 1947 conservation groups issued strong statements against re-routing the Rissbach River. The Bavarian state brushed them aside. BAWAG (Bavarian Hydro-electric Co) countered that Bavaria was so poor in resources and so poorly situated for transport, only substantial damming and river regulation made reconstruction possible.
Conservationists were not always ignored. When BAWAG proposed a dam near Garmisch, Mountain Watch and Alpine Society wrote to the government with their objections. (They argued atomic energy would soon make dams redundant.) In 1949 they were joined by the Conference of State and Regional Conservation Authorities who expressed “deep anxiety about the expansion of hydro-electric power above all in the south German area.” After the Conference’s condemnation of the Garmisch dam was echoed by journalists, professors and “even a prince”, the project was shelved. Again, in 1951, the Bavarian state cancelled a dam on the Isar River after conservationists mobilized botanical institutes of three universities. A dozen proposed dams were blocked in the 1950s.
In 1955, 1,300 teachers and Munich University’s natural science faculty condemned the damming of the Lech River. A fisheries newspaper conjectured the dam’s electricity would be squandered on neon signs and asked, “Why must ethical values be sacrificed to the Moloch profitability?” The German Canoe Club staged a protest along the proposed dam sites with 70 canoes paddling in procession. Four days later the Bavarian cabinet cancelled the dams, but BAWAG fought back. Conservationists eventually agreed to lower dams. BAWAG initially complained lower dams would have less generating capacity, but after 17 conservation groups placed ads in Munich newspapers they capitulated.
The 1950s witnessed the arrival of “Countryside-care,” a movement formula incorporating technology, economics, biology, aesthetics, homeland-protection, resource conservation and preservationism. Countryside-care’s goals were: limiting the exploitation of Nature so that she does not avenge herself on Man; and insuring the countryside remained healthy, beautiful and harmonious. Countryside-care meant abandoning piecemeal preservationism and embracing comprehensive land-use planning. Only a centralized state agency, it was contended, could achieve this.
Countryside-care resisted farm consolidation. Across Germany farmers were digging up hedgerows, clearing clumps of trees and draining wetlands to increase acreage and facilitate machinery. Conservationists deemed such changes destructive. The 1959 German Conservation Conference asserted countryside damage was rooted in “contempt for biological and ecological laws.”
This new conservationism eschewed romanticism and sentimentality. Veteran leaders asserted that Nature-protection should no longer be associated with “antiquated, romantic ideals” but with “wise-use” of resources. While utility-through-conservation cropped up with increasing frequency, not every conservationist made a clean break. Anti-modernist, anti-materialist, and anti-technology statements and the old smorgasbord of romantic appeals still appeared in mainstream movement literature. The blood-and-soil conservationist thesis persisted in publications of neo-Nazi groups.
Also at this time movement intelligentsia began presenting environmental degradation as an apocalyptic threat. New enviro-scares showcased chemical residues and radioactive rain; dangers offering no exemptions, no hiding places. Apocalyptic books provided new hooks for recruiting converts and for introducing calls for radical social transformation that traditional conservationists avoided. In keeping with this shift, Friends of Nature’s motto became “Nature in Danger – Mankind in Danger.”
Pioneering this tack was Adolph Metternich’s The Deserts Threaten (1947). Metternich recycled Siefert’s theories about improper land-use desiccating lush countryside into barren steppes. He blamed humans for creating the Sahara desert. He fretted about pesticides and claimed bad environmental practices threatened all life on earth. His final chapter asks, “When will the last whale die out?” Echoing these views, Hornsmann’s Otherwise Collapse: The Answer of the Earth to the Abuse of Her Laws (1950) drew a direct line from deforestation to social collapse. His “Enemy Number One” was “destruction of Mother Earth” because “Where Mother Earth dies, there the people die too.” Both books lambasted industry for propelling humanity, not just Germany, toward disaster. Both books scoured the globe for defunct civilizations whose demise they attributed to misuse of forests and farmland. In both books “ecology" formed the backbone of the analysis.
Reinhard Demoll’s Will Man be Tamed With Nature Or By Nature? (1952) went through three editions in the 1950s. The book was an “urgent warning” because “already the catastrophe is visible.” Spiritual renewal was part of his prescription for ecological salvation. Demoll spiced 19th century Nature-protection prose with warnings of modern chemical poisons. (Dominick fudges over the veracity of Demoll’s claims with: “…the science of biochemistry in Demoll’s day did not yet offer a clear explanation of how these poisons damaged the human body but his depiction … must have alarmed his readers.”) Being a radiation scaremonger, Demoll opposed nuclear power. He also opposed noise pollution, food additives and big cities. He coined the phrase “diseases of civilization” and he was one of Germany’s first conservationists to stress overpopulation. Here: “Demoll worried less intelligent humans were out-breeding the more intelligent ones and he recommended policies that sounded much like eugenics.”
More influential was Guenther Schwab’s novel Dance with the Devil (1958). Schwab was a veteran Austrian conservationist with 16 books to his credit. By the late 1960s his books sold over one million copies. Dance with the Devil went through ten editions by 1972.
The novel opens with an American kidnapping three Europeans for an audience with Satan. To recruit the three into his plan to poison Earth, Satan has subordinate devils present them with reports. In a chapter entitled “Revenge of the Forest Spirits” Satan gloats “Whenever humans choose between forests and jobs, the forests will always lose.” In another chapter, “Stinkteufel” (Devil of Evil Smells) brags about air pollution. Stinkteufel claims increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are heating the Earth and soon melting polar ice caps will cause worldwide flooding. Satan’s major weapon was his “population bomb.” According to Dominick:
“Schwab betrayed an apparent, perhaps unconscious, racial prejudice that often arises in discussions of global population pressure when he confined his concern about overpopulation to the Third World. In those regions, Schwab denounced public health workers as agents of the Devil. Reminiscent of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s bombast about the “yellow peril,” Schwab’s Satan conjured the specter of an “avalanche” of illiterate Asians inundating the rest of the world.”
The novel ends after two of the Europeans, a male poet and his female companion, pray to God who, with lightning and earthquakes, demolishes Satan’s mighty edifice. The two fall before God crying: “We have stretched out our hand to take Your crown from Your head and we have tried to set ourselves on Your throne… we repent and subordinate ourselves. Obediently we want to come home to the eternal source of life.” The two begin anew amidst the ruins.
This novel reached an immense audience. In 1960 Schwab launched the World League for Defence of Life – an Austrian-headquartered organization that eventually had one million adherents in West Germany and branches in 30 countries. (The group, now called World Union for the Protection of Life, claims to have been founded in 1958.) The League’s manifesto reads:
“…the oversights of the past with their bondage to economics and their blind delirium of progress have contributed to the alarming and increasing poisoning of the environment; they threaten ultimately to destroy the foundations of our existence!”
By 1967 Schwab had given 1,400 speeches to German, Austrian and Swiss audiences. He received a Dutch Laureate van de Arbeid, a German Albert Schweitzer Medal, and a Papal “Cum esset filius die.”
Bodo Manstein’s In the Stranglehold of Progress (1961) surveys the “self-destruction of mankind.” To Manstein “progress” was burying humanity under an avalanche of products. Ecological cycles were such that a weakness introduced “even in the tiniest building blocks” caused dire consequences. The book gave prominent attention to pesticides and over-population. A 1967 sequel paired the “flood of children” with nuclear technology as twin threats to human survival.
Facilitating this shift to apocalyptic propaganda, early 1950s mass media reportage hyped topics like radioactive rain and pesticide residue to alarm the public about threats distant in origin, invisible in operation, delayed in damage and persistent in menace. Readers were told toxins, measured in parts per million, were infiltrating their genes and causing tumours and birth defects. Later in the 1950s newspapers stressed the connection between air pollution and deteriorating human health. Capitalizing on this anxiety, in 1961, the Social Democratic leader linked air pollution to leukemia.
Along with the media’s shift in focus came increasing quantities of environmental coverage. In 1951 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zietung devoted 50 column inches per issue to environmental topics. By 1959 this rose to 450 column inches. Other prominent publications followed suit. Conservation congresses received extensive and positive coverage. Der Spiegel’s coverage of environmental disasters surged in 1957 along with tales about noise pollution; carcinogenic food additives, pesticides, pollution, endangered species, urban sprawl and the evils of detergent foam. A November 1959 issue contained a graphic 11-page supplement on water problems. (Alongside the depressing news were encouraging facts about water purification plants because it was believed that, without presentation of options, bad environmental news bred resignation.) Their April 11, 1962 cover story was on overpopulation.
Dominick found the editorial stance of the media during this period “balanced and objective.” He concedes that one-third of the environmental stories betrayed a clear pro-environmentalist bias. The exception was in regard to atomic energy where the media repeated government safety assurances.
From 1949 to 1965 the West German Federal Government was dominated by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). From 1965 to 1969 a CDU-headed “Grand Coalition” ruled with several Social Democratic Party (SPD) Deputies in the cabinet. In 1969 an SPD-led coalition formed the government.
Orchestrating the conservationist campaign within the federal legislature was the Inter-parliamentary Working Association for a Sustainable Economy. Founded in 1952 by 50 Deputies from major parties, the Association counted 300 Deputies in 1964. The Association’s founding statement complained “the equilibrium in Nature’s household” had suffered much damage. The statement addressed “urgent problems” such as dwindling non-renewable resources, deforestation, farmland-loss, overpopulation, water over-use and air pollution. The Association’s chairman, CDU Deputy Otto Schmidt, was the chief sponsor of federal environmental legislation throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
There was a blitz of federal conservationist legislation from 1957 to 1965. In 1957 a comprehensive water management law was passed. In 1959 air pollution regulations were intensified, and public hearings became mandatory for all major construction projects. A 1960 federal law injected land-use planning into all real estate use (its opening paragraph stressed Nature-protection). In 1961 non-biodegradable detergents were banned. A 1965 Land Use Law imposed conservationist-based planning.
This blitz occurred with the support of, and in spite of, the CDU. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s 1957 policy declaration called for greater water regulation and his 1963 declaration championed a Land Use Law to fight “damages caused by civilization.” In 1958 the CDU government of North Rhine-Westphalia pioneered air pollution legislation. Conversely, the CDU was dependent on industry and most CDU Deputies were pro-development. Their dedication to free markets inhibited their willingness to impose enviro-regulations. The SPD was unburdened by commitments to free markets.
In 1959 the SPD ditched any mention of class struggle. Simultaneously, the SPD discovered “technology and civilization today present man with a multiplicity of health risks. They threaten not only the living but the future generations.” Thus SPD leaders shaped their working class base for environmental policies that solidified a decade later.
(The far left remained indifferent to environmental issues. Being pro-technology advocates of unlimited increases in productive capacity, they disparaged environmentalism as a subterfuge.)
The Federal Government, under theCDU, doubled the number of nature reserves, albeit the newcomers were smaller than the Nazis’ reserves. Twenty-eight reserves were established between 1956 and 1965. In all parks, old and new, the only economic activities permitted were traditional ones (farming and handicrafts) and select tourist operations. The growing legion of recreation seekers in parks bothered purists who complained about motor-boats and radios. In 1957, after the League of German Tourist Associations met with conservationists, both camps agreed to protect rare species and to lobby for more parks. Conservationists remained bitterly opposed to the building of weekend houses on scenic locations and to the “epidemic” of ski-lifts spreading across the Alps. A lift on Jenner Mountain was so roundly opposed by conservationists it could only be built if it was designed by Alwin Seifert and if it were the only lift on the mountain. A gondola on Watzmann Mountain was squelched in 1970 after being denounced by Engelhardt (Conservation Ring president) and Count Bernadotte.
In the 1970s “green” electoral parties sprang up around local environmental issues; often a landfill siting. The effort to unite these parties into a national Green Party began in 1977 at a meeting chaired by World League for Defense of Life president, Werner Haverbeck. (Dominick fails to mention Haverbeck was a pre-1933 leader of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi student association and remained a denizen of the ultra-right his entire life.) The German Green Party was launched in 1980 with “ecology” as its core self-defining term. The rest of its program was a nebulous mash of leftist, feminist and counter-culture trendiness. The party’s ultra-right elements faded from view. The Greens rallied 40,000 members by 1985, then stagnated due to infighting and to the major parties’ co-optation of their platform.
In 1979, 90% of convention delegates of each of the four major parties favoured stronger environmental legislation. Consensus on environmental matters meant such issues seldom surfaced during 1980s elections. In 1990, the SDP’s leader suggested making the ecological restructuring of Germany the centerpiece of their campaign. By 1991 all four parties preached environmentalism and coveted endorsements from environmental organizations.
Under Count Lennart Bernadotte’s direction, the German Horticultural Society converted Lake Constance’s Mainau Island into a botanical museum. (Dominick leaves out that Bernadotte, a member of the Swedish Royal family, owned Mainau.) In 1961 he hosted seminars on Mainau for politicians, academics and conservationists. These meetings produced the Green Charter of Mainau, which opens:
“The foundations of our life have fallen into peril, because vital elements of Nature are being polluted, poisoned and destroyed and noise afflicts us unbearably… The worth of man is threatened where his environment is damaged”
Charter signatories resolved to: “examine the situation collectively, to plan, to negotiate, in order to establish and to insure a smooth adjustment among technology, economics and Nature.”
They recommended: urban green spaces; sustainable agriculture; preservation/restoration of Nature; restrictions on construction, industry, mining, and highways; and “a reorientation in the thinking in the whole population by strengthened education of the public.”
Bernadotte persuaded West German President Karl Lubke (CDU) to appoint a panel of mandarins and notables to implement the Charter. In 1962 a 15-member German Council for Land-care, with Lubke presiding, began holding hearings and publishing reports. They intervened decisively to stop several development proposals. Bernadotte described the Council as the “green conscience of the nation.”
During the 1960s “environmental protection” (Umweltschutz) edged out Nature-protection as the movement’s main mental construct. “Umwelt” was used by the movement before WWII, but not until the late-1960s did it become a mantra. One common early-1960s phrase was “environmental damage” (Umweltschaden). Umweltschutz, appearing in 1969 (possibly an English translation), tied together disparate topics such as food additives, occupational safety, and public transportation. By 1970, 40% of Germans were familiar with “umweltschutz.” (In 1970 Stuttgart Newspaper claimed as most Germans “detested” Nature-protectionists, the movement needed to accentuate Countryside-care and “umweltschutz.”) German media coverage of umweltschutz increased 700% in 1970, largely in conjunction with European Conservation Year. By 1972, 92% of Germans were familiar with umweltschutz and 53% were willing to make sacrifices for it.
European Conservation Year (1970) was the brain-child of the Council of Europe – an assembly of delegates from West European countries founded in 1949. In 1961 the Council established an advisory panel of conservation experts. Initially, the panel had a narrow preservationist perspective concentrating on countryside aesthetics, endangered species and nature parks but soon shifted its focus to pollution, pesticides and land-use planning. In 1968 the Council promulgated the European Water Charter (led by the German Nature Park Society). European Conservation Year’s announcement was accompanied by a statement in a leading conservation journal heralding the transition from Nature-protection to Countryside-care. European Conservation Year’s purpose was to debut this transition.
The Conservation Ring was tasked with orchestrating European Conservation Year’s German festivities. The Ring was given 40,000 DM from the Federal Government and lesser amounts from state governments. Festivities included film festivals, special publications and photo contests. A Munich Museum exhibition illustrated countless aspects of the environmental crisis such as “forest-death” (allegedly caused by poison gases). The Year kicked off with a galaxy of dignitaries attending a lecture by Wolfgang Engelhardt and concluded at a gala at Bonn’s Poppeldorfer Schlof where Engelhardt and Chancellor “Umwelt Willy” Brandt (SPD) spoke on the urgency of the crisis.
European Conservation Year created a hospitable environment for environmentalist legislation. The Bavarian Conservation League used the opportunity to submit a detailed draft of a Law of Nature-Protection, Countryside-care and Environmental-Protection. An even more impressive package of environmental laws flowed from the Federal Government.
In 1970 Brandt announced his “Immediate Program” of new trash removal and pollution control laws. Between this announcement and December 1974 the Federal Government passed 188 environmental laws, and another 192 environmental laws were under consideration. One-thousand lesser federal environmental regulations were imposed or proposed during these years.
In 1971 a Council of Environmental Experts was established and a Federal Environment Policy enshrined the precautionary principle, polluter-pay principle and enhanced citizen participation. The Policy decreed: “environmentally conscious conduct must be accepted as a general educational goal in the teaching plans of all educational levels.”
The 30th constitutional amendment, passed in1972, gave the Federal Government competence over air pollution, noise pollution and trash removal. Companion legislation stressed recycling and banned DDT. In 1974 an Environmental Office was established in the Federal Ministry of Interior.
State legislatures were often greener than the Federal Government, especially in Bavaria. Before 1970, Bavaria spent more on conservation than the Federal Government and all other states combined. Bavarian environmentalists feared their system would fall victim to federal empire building.
After 1970, conservationists abandoned defensive preservationism. Re-christened as “environmentalists”, they reset their course and went on the offensive. The movement redoubled its use of demonstrations, disobedience, media manipulation, public hearings and lawsuits.
During the late-1960s the English-speaking world’s conservation movement achieved per capita densities that West Germany’s movement achieved a decade earlier. In 1960 the USA’s Sierra Club membership, at 15,000, was smaller than the Bavarian Conservation League which drew its membership from a single German state. In 1960 the USA’s Audubon Society, at 30,000 members, was the same size as the German League for Bird Protection even though America’s population was four times West Germany’s. By 1970 the Sierra Club had 107,000 members and the Audubon Society, 275,000. The British Royal Society for Protection of Birds’ roster increased from 41,000 in 1968 to 108,000 in 1972.
In 1955 the Federal Government embraced nuclear power. While the major parties supported this decision; the nuclear issue proved profoundly divisive.
Most press stories about atomic energy were favourable but a handful voiced reservations. One 1955 headline asked, “Where to Put Atomic Wastes?” This question was repeated over the next decade along with a drumbeat of scares about radioactive fallout from weapons testing. In 1958 Die Deutsche Zeitung ran an article entitled “The Atomic Contamination of the Earth.” In 1961 the New Rhine Newspaper ran the headline “Daily the Radioactive Clouds Come Closer.” A Frankfurt paper trumped this with “Already in the Womb Babies are Threatened by the Atom.”
In 1956 the first meeting of Bodo Manstein’sFighting League Against Atomic Injuries drew 600 people. In 1957 this group had 400,000 members. This short-lived group held mass demonstrations at which traditional conservation groups were nowhere to be seen.
Friends of Nature was one of the few older conservation groups taking a militantly anti-nuclear position. They were prominent in the Fighting League, and after that organization fell apart they held anti-nuclear Easter Marches. The 1967 Easter March drew 150,000 participants. The only other anti-nuclear group in the 1960s was the World League for Defence of Life. The Alliance for Protecting German Water waffled. Their line was: we should not win the atom and lose the water. Their fears reactors would raise ambient water temperatures were assuaged with expensive cooling towers.
The first NIMBY campaign against a reactor (at Friedrichstal) failed, and the plant was completed in 1958. When the Wurgassen reactor was announced, in 1967, a local attorney, backed by a sport fishing society, established a group to fight it. During public hearings 100 placard-wielding demonstrators, many of them World Leaguers, marched outside. Opponents of the reactor held regular press conferences. This campaign also failed. The plant was completed in 1971.
In 1970 the World League sponsored a conference of 100 anti-nuclear scientists, then delivered a synopsis of their presentations to state and federal cabinet ministers. For alternative energy they recommended mainly solar and wind power.
In 1970 the SDP-coalition stunned the nuclear industry by withholding the licence for the Ludwigshafen reactor and by scratching plans for a breeder reactor. Most Germans still supported nuclear power. By 1972 Germany had 12 large reactors completed or under construction and 10 more in planning stages. During the 1970s, while the anti-nuclear component of environmental agitation overshadowed all others, West German nuclear power capacity jumped from 5,000 to 25,000 MW.
In 1972 activists thwarted a reactor at Briesach. This homeless reactor was then sited forWyhl. Immediately Wyhl-area farmers and artisans occupied the site. Within eight months, 20,000 demonstrators joined them. Courts revoked the construction permit. In 1976 a proposed reactor at Brokdorf brought months of clashes between police and 30,000 protestors before courts halted construction. In 1977, 60,000 protested the breeder reactor at Kalkar. In 1979, 100,000 rallied against a nuclear waste facility at Gorleben. (Spokesman for the Gorleben protestors was Count von Bernstorff. His prestigious presence was often back-dropped by a parade of farmers on tractors.)
Initially the Bavarian Conservation League saw nuclear power as preferable to coal-fired or hydro-electric facilities. By 1975 they endorsed a “Pause for Reflection” in reactor construction. In 1979 they rejected nuclear energy altogether.Other conservation clubs fell in line.
Going in the opposite direction, the SPD, the party least amenable to nuclear power, conceded energy alternatives were unrealistic; hence, the nuclear option had to remain open. Trade unions within the SPD drove this decision.
After WWII, conservationists re-invented Citizen Initiatives to challenge governments with petitions, public meetings and legal action. The new Citizen’s Initiatives were usually ad hoc single-issue entities with short life cycles animated by cash and personnel from longstanding conservation societies.
In 1947 a Citizen’s Initiative in Ebenhausen, an Isar Valley resort and farming town, fought a planned factory. Responding to their petition, the Bavarian Interior Minister and Minister-President, after touring the site, agreed the factory contradicted Ebenhausen’s character and directed it be built elsewhere.
In 1955 the routing of a highway through a riverfront glade near Bamberg spawned a Citizen’s Initiative aided by the Bavarian Conservation League. They claimed diesel fumes caused cancer. The Initiative was partially successful – the highway was downsized.
In 1956, after a company proposed a mine in the Swabian Alps, Friends of Nature held a referendum to mobilize locals. Seeing that 72% opposed the mine, authorities cancelled its permit.
In the mid-1950s a planned highway through Munich’s English Garden was resisted by the Isar Valley Society in its customary private way. When bureaucrats proved unresponsive, the Society mobilized locals to distribute brochures condemning the highway. Going around officials to the populace was extraordinary for this Society. The highway was blocked and Society membership tripled.
In 1959 a homeopath from Essen sued a nearby metallurgical plant, then used the ensuing publicity to found the Community of Interests Against the Dangers From Air Pollution.
In the early 1960s, the Saving Lake Constance coalition formed, supported by the Council for Countryside-care, to fight a proposed canal to connect the lake to the Rhine. Regional chambers of commerce hoped the canal would trigger an economic boom. For the same reason, conservationists opposed it. The canal was killed.
A group set up in 1963 to block a strip mine near Hohe Meissner (a renowned Youth Movement conclave) forced authorities to restrict the mine to an area below the mountain’s distinctive profile and to require the miner to do extensive restoration.
New legislation increased the number of toeholds available to challenge governments. Soon even the low-profile Conservation Ring was suing governments. Judges, prompted by laws mandating citizen participation, responded with increasing sympathy to such suits.
Resisting airport expansion was a common Citizen Initiative cause. In 1960, when Dusseldorf Airport announced plans to lengthen its runway by 400 metres, an Emergency Committee coalesced in opposition. The Committee launched 20 lawsuits. In 1964 courts ordered generous buy-outs for residents opposed to the expansion and additional funds for soundproofing buildings. Hamburg’s planned super-airport was originally sited for the town of Kaltenkirchen. A pro-airport faction headed by the mayor was defeated by Action Kalterkirchen Airport led by a local mayonnaise magnate.
Regarding Munich’s airport expansion, the Munich Mercury observed in 1961:
“…the farmers, the forest owners, the Friends of Nature … have become extremely attentive to all proposals and they do not hesitate to unleash protest resolutions even at the beginning stages and to mobilize their deputies.”
As Bavarians, Munich residents had a constitutional right to enjoy Nature. Additional legal fulcrums came from land-use laws adopted by Bavaria in 1962 and the Federal Government in 1965. Anti-development activists typically claimed a development threatened property values and/or traditional farming and artisan lifestyles. A common slogan was: “We have a right to this, our homeland.”
After Munich was chosen to host the 1972 Olympics, airport expansion became a necessity. In 1966 the siting committees elected land at Hofolding because it was level, undeveloped and state-owned. Within days the mayor of a nearby village (a Bavarian Conservation League official) arranged a protest rally supported by the Conservation Ring, Protective Association of German Forests, Alliance for Protecting German Water, Council of Countryside-care and Bavarian Farmer’s Union. The ad hoc Isar Valley Citizens Protective Association placed large “Hands off Hofolding!” ads in newspapers and orchestrated a flood of letters-to-the-editor. Protest signs plastered the area. In July 1967 a large rally was held in Munich. Prominent Christian Social Union members, including Bavaria’s Minister-President, joined the protest. The Munich Mercury ran a full-page article by a professor for the purpose of:
“Acquainting a broad audience with basic ecological principles, he also lectured that the Hofolding Forest served indispensible purposes in water retention and purification as well as in modulating the climate and cleaning the air.”
In 1969 the Berlin Appellate Court sided with the protestors. Two breweries provided free beer at the ensuing celebration.
Munich’s airport siting committee, now pressed for time, selected an alternative site near Erding. Immediately a Munich newspaper published a picture of an Erding farmer on a tractor beside a large sign reading, “A super airport here? Never!” When surveyors arrived at Erding, a siren alerted farmers who chased them away. They vowed to defend every square metre with pitchforks. Despite such threats and literally thousands of lawsuits, the Erding site was completed in time. To placate conservationists, 750,000 trees were planted and 575 acres were turned into a marsh.
In 1969 Chancellor Brandt urged Germans to “risk more democracy.” His 1971 policy declaration championed environmentalist Citizens’ Initiatives. These words spurred Citizens’ Initiatives, as did government-supplied grants, premises and publishing opportunities. A Federal Union of Citizens Initiatives, founded in 1972, gathered 1,000 groups under its banner. The Union demanded Germany’s entire economy must be founded on ecology. By 1980, five million Germans were active in environmental initiatives – a figure vastly larger than the combined membership of the four major political parties.
What haunts Dominick lurks in passages like:
“Several solidly scientific studies have purported to disprove any correlation between an individual’s direct experience of environmental problems and his or her concern for the environment.”
His discussion of the two main sociological approaches to environmentalism – resource mobilization theory and new social movement theory – betrays dismay because neither considers environmental damage to be a factorin the movement’s growth. By his own account, however, many Germans during the Second Empire became conservationists after hearing tales about the degradation of pristine lands in California. Such tales convinced them of the biosphere’s fragility in the face of industry. Such tales galvanized conservationist consciousness among people not personally witnessing environmental damage. He also relays modern media studies which conclude that where environmental issues directly affect people the media exerts little influence; however, where the environmental issue is remote the media exerts a major influence. In short, most people embrace environmentalism not from witnessing environmental degradation but from exposure to propaganda. What haunts Dominick is environmental degradation is subjective or non-existent. Environmental degradation consists of things like building a ski-lift, which most people view as harmless, or it consists of fictitious hobgoblins like global warming.
Dominick’s clearest failing is his treatment of the aristocracy. After acknowledging the aristocracy created and led the environmental movement in the 1871-1918 era, he makes only four quick references to them in the rest of his book. The chapter on Nazism mentions neither a single aristocrat nor aristocrats in general even though thousandsof aristocrats were prominent Nazis. The remainder of the text briefly refers to Count Bernadotte, Count von Bernstorff, one unnamed prince, and has a passing quip on the inconsequentiality of aristocrats. True, after 1919 the German aristocracy constitutionally disappeared, but they were not stripped of their property and they continued to use their titles. Moreover, the aristocracy are but the salient heights of the “landed interest” – farmers, landlords and their financiers. This landed interest is the core constituency and beneficiary of environmentalism. Environmental issues are often land-use issues – urban sprawl, farmland expansion, agricultural protectionism and subsidies, green spaces and parks – issues with direct and immediate impact on rents and land values. The struggle for ever greater enviro-regulation of business is an extension of a centuries-old effort by the landed estate to retain control of economic policy. Dominick, typical of environmental historians, is wilfully oblivious to the political economy of land.
Eighty-three million Germans inhabit 357,000 square kilometres. For context, Montana covers 381,000 square kilometres and has a population of 989,000; Newfoundland covers 405,000 square kilometres and has a population of 509,000; and New Zealand covers 268,000 sq k and has a population of 4.2 million. Relative to much of the English-speaking world, German land is characterized by a high proportion of private ownership versus government ownership and by a high degree of landlordism. 60% of German households are tenants; an even greater percentage of farmland is tenanted, as is most industrial and commercial property. (This goes for much of Western Europe.) German per capita GDP, at $40,000, is on par with the English-speaking world. Hence, those 357,000 square kilometres are prime real estate. Dozens of old aristocratic families – Wittelsbach, Hohenzollern, Hapsburg, Thurn und Taxis, Bismarck, Hohenloe, etc – count their real estate holdings, urban and rural, in the hundreds of square kilometres. 1% of Germans probably own 95% of privately-owned land. These few hundred thousand men, the German landed interest, constitute a powerful political bloc. Their influence can be seen in the trend toward “alternative” or “green” energy (wind farms, solar farms and bio-fuels) which are mainly derived from privately-owned rural land. These forms of energy are state subsidized, as are all European rural landholdings, through a variety of often environmentalist rationales.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), aformer environment minister, recently announced the world’s most ambitious climate-protection program. By 2050 all German electricity is to be wind or solar powered and all German buildings will be climate-friendly. She braced Germans for rent increases. Eco-retrofitting of buildings will cost $3 trillion. Landlords can pass these costs onto tenants. This program will throw one-third of tenants into financial crisis. Commenting on these policies, the Wall Street Journal noted “ecology makes the poor poorer”; more specifically, Germany’s “ecological-industrial complex increases inequality more than neo-liberal policies ever could.”
In Germany environmentalism is an export strategy, a pretext for injecting financial stimulus, and a protectionist device. Present trends continuing, Germany’s green technology sector will overtake automobile manufacturing as the country’s core industry by 2025. German businesses’ share of the global green industry is 16%. Currently, 1.5 million Germans work at manufacturing enviro-friendly household appliances, wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid cars.The German organic foods industry and its recycling industry each have multi-billion dollar annual turnovers.
The German Green Party is polling ahead of the SPD. They are now Germany’s second largest party and have a shot at the Chancellorship. The Greens long ago shed their leftish skin. They now posture as the party of “post-materialist” upper middle class. Green Party supporters’ incomes are higher than any other party. 40% of upper-level civil servants support the Green Party. Given the movement’s history of targeting education, one can assume eco-fascists now run most German schools. German mass media is highly concentrated and generally pro-environmentalist.
Germany is sailing past the point of no return, again.
Raymond H. Dominick III, The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971 Indiana University Press, 1992.
Lehming, Malte, The German Ecological-Industrial Complex, Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2010.