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Environmental discourse on population growth: a comparative study of environmental groups in Western democracies

posted on 2017-02-27, 22:27 authored by Walker, Matthew Peter Alistair
Environmental organisations are a well-established part of the political landscape in many Western countries, providing important contributions to both public dialogue on, and potential policy responses to, the question of how to achieve more environmentally sustainable societies. While the issue of population growth formed a key priority for the environmental movement during its surge in the 1960s and 1970s, the topic of population has since become highly contentious and has received far less attention from environmental groups. This thesis attempts to account for this divergence by using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. First, existing survey data are used to explore socio-demographic variables in attitudes to immigration in Western countries. Second, documents produced by a sample of environmental groups from Australia, the United States, and Canada are used to analyse discourse on domestic and global population increase. It is concluded that discourse is shaped by the changing dynamics of population increase in the West (with net overseas migration having become the primary driver of growth) and by the tension between several influential environmental paradigms. In particular, social ecology has achieved significant influence on environmental discourse and challenged the beliefs and priorities of traditional conservationist environmentalism. This discourse has proven popular within the environmental movement as it is congruent with the identity of a ‘new class’ social-cultural status group that is disproportionately represented among environmental group member and leaders.


Principal supervisor

Dharmalingam Arunachalam

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School of Social Sciences (Monash Australia)


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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