Book cover image for: Environmental Activism on the Ground

Environmental Activism on the Ground: Small Green and Indigenous Organizing

Edited by Jonathan Clapperton and Liza Piper

$39.99 CAD / $39.99 USD (S)

376 pages, 6 illustrations

6 x 9 inches

978-1-77385-004-7 (Paperback)

978-1-77385-006-1 (Institutional PDF)

978-1-77385-007-8 (ePub)

978-1-77385-008-5 (Mobi)

January 2019

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About the Book

Individual people working within their communities have the power to create incredible change. This collection offers the history of environmental activism from the ground up along with lessons and direction for activists today.

Environmental Activism on the Ground draws upon a wide range of interdisciplinary scholarship to examine small scale, local environmental activism, paying particular attention to Indigenous experiences. It illuminates the questions that are central to the ongoing evolution of the environmental movement while reappraising the history and character of late twentieth and early twenty-first environmentalism in Canada, the United States, and beyond.

This collection considers the different ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists have worked to achieve significant change. It examines attempts to resist exploitative and damaging resource developments, and the establishment of parks, heritage sites, and protected areas that recognize the indivisibility of cultural and natural resources. It pays special attention to the thriving environmentalism of the 1960s through the 1980s, an era which saw the rise of major organizations such as Greenpeace along with the flourishing of local and community-based environmental activism.

Environmental Activism on the Ground emphasizes the effects of local and Indigenous activism, offering lessons and directions from the ground up. It demonstrates that the modern environmental movement has been as much a small-scale, ordinary activity as a large-scale, elite one.

About the Editors

Jonathan Clapperton is an adjunct professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria. He specializes in Indigenous history and culture in the North American West, and works as an expert witness and historical consultant for numerous Indigenous communities.

Liza Piper is an environmental historian and associate professor of History and Classics at the University of Alberta. She is the author of The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada and editor of Sustaining the West: Cultural Responses to Canadian Environments.

With Contributions By: Jonathan Clapperton, Jessica M. DeWitt, Sterling Evans, Zoltán Grossman, Tobasonakwut Peter Kinew, Mark Leeming, Mark J. McLauchlin, Liza Piper, John R. Welsch, Anna J. Willow, and Frank Zelko

Praise for Environmental Activism on the Ground

Jonathan Clapperton and Liza Piper’s essay collection Environmental Activism on the Ground makes an important contribution to scholarly understandings of social movements, environmentalism, and Indigenous/settler relations in Canada and beyond . . . [it] clearly demonstrates that there is much important work to be done by historians in unpacking the significance and impact of small, grassroots environmental groups and Indigenous activists.

—Henry John, British Journal of Canadian Studies

An excellent book on grassroots Indigenous activism.

—James C. Saku, American Review of Canadian Studies

There is nothing small about the breadth, scope, and aims of Environmental Activism on the Ground . . . we can all learn something from these compelling examples.

—Sarah Marie Wiebe, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Historians of the environmental movement have been working to incorporate more stories “from the ground up” and this volume is a wonderful addition to that growing body of research.

—Darren Speece, Environment and History

An excellent contribution to environmental history . . . the versatility of the text is a testament to both the editors’ choices and the strength of the chapters. The histories Clapperton and Piper have collected are a valuable contribution to furthering our understanding of environmentalism in a Canadian context and beyond

—John-Henry Harter, Historie Social / Social History

Provides worthwhile messages to wilderness activists and practitioners

—John Shultis, International Journal of Wilderness

Environmental Activism on the Ground successfully foregrounds small-scale, local, and Indigenous organizing in the history of the environmental movement. Not only does this recalibrate our understanding of how the movement has been constituted and has changed over time, but as the editors suggest, it obliges us to reconsider what the impacts of the movement have been. The collection presents an alternative to declensionist narratives and helps to explain one reason why grassroots organizing continues unabated: because it has proven capable of winning and fostering lasting connections.

—Justin Fisher, NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment

Environmental Activism on the Ground succeeds splendidly in complicating and enriching our understanding of modern environmentalism. Focusing on Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists in an impressive range of settings, Jonathan Clapperton and Liza Piper draw together and interpret diverse methodological and conceptual insights in a way that gives new, deserved prominence to those who have strived—and continue to strive—for environmental justice at the local level. These accounts left me both enlightened and heartened. Scholars from across the humanities and social sciences will welcome this volume.

—Richard A. Rajala, Department of History, University of Victoria

Jonathan Clapperton and Liza Piper have assembled a remarkable collection of essays revealing previously hidden histories of local and Indigenous environmental activism. Environmental Activism on the Ground is a timely and captivating volume that deserves attention not just from scholars, but also from readers with even a casual interest in the diverse an creative ways Canadians have responded to environmental challenges. 

—John Sandlos, Professor, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland 

Table of Contents


List of Contributors

List of Figures


In the Shadow of the Green Giants:
Environmentalism and Civic Engagement

Jonathan Clapperton and Liza Piper

Process and Possibilities

Strategies for Survival:
First Nations Encounters with Environmentalism
Anna J. Willow

Native/Non-Native Alliances:
Challenging Fossil Fuel Industry Shipping at Pacific Northwest Ports
Zoltán Grossman

Conserving Contested Ground:
Sovereignty–Driven Stewardship by the White Mountain Apache tribe and the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation
John R. Welch

From Southern Alberta to Northern Brazil:
Indigenous Conservation and the Preservation of Cultural Resources
Sterling Evans

Parks For and By the People:
Acknowledging Ordinary People in the Formation, Protection, and Use of State and Provincial Parks
Jessica M. DeWitt


Environmental and Indigenous Activism in the 1970s

Liza Piper

Marmion Lake Generating Station:
Another Northern Scandal?
Tobasonakwut Peter Kinew

Environmental Activism as Anti–Conquest:
The Nuu–chch–nulth and Environmentalists in the Contact Zone of Clayoquot Sound
Jonathan Clapperton

Local Economic Independence as Environmentalism:
Nova Scotia in the 1970s
Mark Leeming

"Not an Easy Thing to Implement":
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick and Environmental Organization in a Resource–Dependent Province, 1969–1983
Mark J. McLaughlin

The Ebb and Flow of Local Environmental Activism:
The Society for Pollution and Environmental Control (SPEC), British Columbia
Jonathan Clapperton

From Social Movement to Environmental Behemoth:
How Greenpeace Got Big
Frank Zelko


Lessons and Directions from the Ground Up

Jonathan Clapperton and Liza Piper




Honourable Mention, Alana Bondar Memorial Book Prize | 2020