Germany enjoys an enviably green reputation. Environmentalists in other countries applaud its strict environmental laws, its world-class green technology firms, its phase-out of nuclear power, and its influential Green Party. Germans are proud of these achievements, and environmentalism has become part of the German national identity. In The Greenest Nation? Frank Uekötter offers an overview of the evolution of German environmentalism since the late nineteenth century. He discusses, among other things, early efforts at nature protection and urban sanitation, the Nazi experience, and civic mobilization in the postwar years. He shows that much of Germany’s green reputation rests on accomplishments of the 1980s, and emphasizes the mutually supportive roles of environmental nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and the state.
Uekötter looks at environmentalism in terms of civic activism, government policy, and culture and life, eschewing the usual focus on politics, prophets, and NGOs. He also views German environmentalism in an international context, tracing transnational networks of environmental issues and actions and discussing German achievements in relation to global trends. Bringing his discussion up to the present, he shows the influence of the past on today’s environmental decisions. As environmentalism is wrestling with the challenges of the twenty-first century, Germany could provide a laboratory for the rest of the world.
About the Author
Frank Uekötter is Reader in Environmental Humanities at the University of Birmingham (UK). He is the author of The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany, The Age of Smoke: Environmental Policy in Germany and the United States, 1880–1970, and other books.
“This is clearly the best and most brilliant history of the greening of Germany, from German environmentalism's disparate origins until the present. Uekötter, a sharp and independent analyst with immense knowledge in the field, presents a fresh look at 'green' Germany. Nearly every page of the book is full of surprising facts, and it is not written without a good pinch of green self-irony.”
—Joachim Radkau, Professor of Modern History, Bielefeld University
“No one is better equipped than Uekötter for tracing the rise of German environmentalism. He has written a fascinating and timely account that explains well how environmentalism has emerged as a strong political movement, how it differs from nation to nation, and what those differences can teach us about our home-grown American ideas and commitments.”
—Donald Worster, University of Kansas, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
"This is a welcome book from a leading German scholar, a lucid historical account of 'the broad roof called environmentalism' in twentieth-century Germany. The brevity of the survey belies its comprehensiveness, for it skillfully situates German environmentalism in its broad social, political, and cultural contexts."
—Roger Chickering, Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University
“A boldly framed and constantly thought-provoking account of how Germany became a 'laboratory for green growth.' Uekötter casts his net wide to take in the worlds of activism, public policy, and everyday culture. Sharply written and fresh in its judgments, his book is both scholarly and accessible.”
—David Blackbourn, Cornelius Vanderbilt Distinguished Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and author of The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany
“Frank Uekötter's wonderful new book will help you think more clearly about environmental movements everywhere, not just in Germany. It is as much a work about the future as the past.”
—Adam Rome, author of The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation