Mobilizing mobile pastoralists: Rural Environmental Movements in Mongolia
Sociology Hokkaido University Japan,
How are mobile pastoral communities mobilized against the threats to their natural and social environment? In the summer of 2005, the local herding communities of Suvarga were mobilized against the gold mining in the local area by forming a grassroots movement and organizing sittings, blockage, and lawsuits. This was one of the rural grassroots movements recently emerged in Mongolia, particularly in the regions affected by the mining activities. The pioneer of these movements was emerged in 2001 to preserve an endangered river flowing through three provinces. Since then similar organizations have been emerged in different rural areas where local watersheds were endangered by the external factors. This is a new kind of grassroots activism where local herding community was mobilized and consequently involved in contentious politics. The movement organizations transformed the composition and leadership of the environmental groups where professional and donor-driven organizations were dominant actors. In 2006, 11 movement organizations formed a coalition with the umbrella organization aimed at generating more collaborative operations and impacts. The coalition, however, was dissolved and consequently reorganized into two independent groups after two years. Based on the personal interviews with the movement leaders, activists, and the participant observation, the first part of this paper explores the emergence, mobilization, and development of the rural environmental movements in Mongolia. Then, the paper discusses the case of Suvarga incidence using my interviews with the leader, oral histories told by local activists and supporters of the movement and the media sources. The paper shows that (1) local political opportunities and resources significantly affect protest emergence and movement mobilization: (2) contentious politics influence the alliance patterns of movement organizations: and (3) symbolic politics and urban-rural dualities play a significant role in the movement mobilization.