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Article
“The Cosmopolitanism of Environmental Activists in Sri Lanka.”
Nature and Culture (2008)
  • Arjun Guneratne, Macalester College
Abstract

This paper examines the emergence in Sri Lanka of transcultural thinking about environmental issues as well as the activism it engenders by examining the role of the Anglophone Sri Lankan elite as the chief protagonists historically of environmentalism in the country. It also examines the history and development of one of Sri Lanka’s leading NGOs, Environmental Foundation Ltd. (EFL) as an example of the activism of this class. EFL’s perspective on environmental issues has its origins in the transformations wrought by colonialism in the country’s class structure and in the introduction of European ideas of nature to the country’s newly emergent middle-class. Modelled on the Natural Resources Defense Council of the United States, EFL was a new kind of environmental organization in Sri Lanka and a response to globalization and Sri Lanka’s increasing integration into the global economy. Unlike the handful of environmental NGOS that existed in the late seventies, which were essentially pressure groups, EFL was conceived, on the model of NRDC, as a public interest law firm, and drew on international models to frame its arguments about the application of the law in the cause of environmental protection. It quickly developed close links to international agencies of various kinds, which provided it with both funds and intellectual stimulation, as well as a network of like minded organizations, such as the email network e-law. This paper examines how these various factors – social class of the activists and the processes of institution building – shaped a cosmopolitan environmental discourse in Sri Lanka whose roots lie in urban Sri Lankan middle class culture as it emerged and was transformed during colonial rule and in the various discourses of globalization that have been drawn on by Sri Lankan activists to craft their own arguments.

Keywords
  • environment,
  • law,
  • cosmopolitanism,
  • bourgeoisie,
  • NGO
Disciplines
Publication Date
2008
Citation Information
Arjun Guneratne. "“The Cosmopolitanism of Environmental Activists in Sri Lanka.”" Nature and Culture Vol. 3 Iss. 1 (2008)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/arjun_guneratne/39/