The environmental movements in Southeast Asia played a vital role not only in scuttling projects like the Bataan nuclear plant but in ousting the dictatorships that reigned there in the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, because authoritarian regimes did not perceive the environment as “political,” organizing around environmental and public health issues was not initially proscribed. Thus, environmental struggles became an issue around which the anti-dictatorship movement could organize and reach new people. Environmental destruction became one more graphic example of a regime’s irresponsibility.I had no idea. Christina Larson wrote a great Washington Monthly piece about an analogous situation in China: Beijing's worried about pollution (and even climate change), but it doesn't have the power to regulate the spewage from the provinces, so the government has given the green NGOs a little slack in hopes they can work their magic. But once you let the civil-society groups go it can be hard to pull the lasso tight again. Or something.
In Indonesia, for example, the environmental organization WALHI went so far as to file a lawsuit for pollution and environmental destruction against six government bodies, including the ministry of the environment and population. By the time the dictatorships wised up to what was happening, it was often too late: environmentalism and anti-fascism fed on one another.