Country Listing

Poland Table of Contents


Environmental Groups

The burst of political activity in the late 1980s and the early 1990s included establishment of over 2,000 organizations with environmental agendas. A precedent for such groups was set in 1980, however, when the Green Solidarity movement forced closure of an aluminum plant in Kraków. The diverse groups that appeared in the next decade achieved some additional successes, but lack of cohesion and common goals deprived the movement of political influence. No environmental group or party was represented in the Polish legislative branch in 1992.

Among the objects of protest in the 1980s were Poland's lack of a national plan for dealing with ecological disasters; construction of a Czechoslovak coking plant near the Polish border; continued reliance on high-sulfur and high-ash coal in electric power plants; and the severe environmental damage caused by Soviet troops stationed in Poland. In 1986 the explosion and resulting fallout from the Soviet Union's Chernobyl' nuclear power plant galvanized environmental activism, which in Poland was dominated by the professional classes. But environmental groups faced several obstacles. Volunteer recruitment, a critical aspect of organizational development, was hindered by the necessity for many Poles to work two jobs to survive. Refining practical operational priorities proved difficult for organizations whose initial inspiration came from broad statements of environmental ethics. And the agendas of the many activist groups remained fragmented and dissimilar in 1992. Meanwhile, the most influential political parties were split between advocates of preserving jobs ahead of protecting the environment and those who saw unchanged economic activity as the paramount danger to the health of workers and society (see Solidarity , ch. 4). Public attitudes toward environmental problems also were divided. In a 1992 nationwide survey, only 1 percent of Poles cited the environment as the country's most serious problem, although 66 percent rated environmental issues "very serious." By contrast, 72 percent cited economic issues as the country's most serious problem.

Data as of October 1992