© Frank Uekötter

Dr. phil. habil. Frank Uekötter (außerplanmäßiger Professor at the University of Bielefeld)

Reader in Environmental Humanities at the University of Birmingham

Frank Uekötter studied history, political science and the social sciences at the universities of Freiburg and Bielefeld in Germany and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA). He has published widely on environmental issues in Germany and the world. Publications include "The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany" (2006) and "The Greenest Nation? A New History of German Environmentalism" (2014). He became Reader in environmental humanities at the University of Birmingham in 2013.

E-Mail: f.uekoetter@bham.ac.uk


The Discreet Charm of Friends in High Places, or: Why the New Authoritarianism May Be Green

Environmentalism might look like an unlikely source for a new authoritarianism. Most people see environmental problems as genuine issues of new social movements and evidence of democracy in action. But activism is only the most visible side of environmentalism. Green policy is also about scientific expertise, legal details, and endless negotiations, and most of the everyday business goes on behind the scenes. In this setting, it helps to have friend in high places: corporations, politicians, foundations with deep pockets. There is no reason to assume that environmentalists are immune to the multiple temptations of power, and every reason to assume that this will be a non-issue as long as most people see green as good.

We know this because environmentalists have fallen for authoritarianism before. In my book The Green and the Brown, I have shown that the environmental history of Nazi Germany was about such an alliance. While previous studies have flagged ugly quotations, I have trace the process by which conservationists became trapped in a self-delusion that the Nazi regime was the first German government that truly understood their concerns. That does not mean that environmentalism is obsolete in a century that will likely see an escalation of environmental conflicts, but the story provides a warning in an age where climate change adaptation is a high-stakes, multi-billion dollar business.

Programme: Panel 11, Friday, 7 September 2018, 13:00-14:30