Professor Christopher Rootes

Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology


Professor Christopher Rootes studied politics, public administration, history and law at the University of Queensland and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Government, before studying political sociology at Yale and at Oxford.

He first came to Kent to teach Sociology, and since then has taught Environmental Social Science. He has also taught Sociology at the University of New South Wales and Political Science at the University of Melbourne.   

Research interests

Professor Rootes' principal research interests are in environmental movements, green parties, environmental protest, environmental NGOs and the interactions between environmental campaigners and industry, government and governmental agencies, as well as the conditions of social and political order in a climate-changed world. His perspectives are cross-nationally comparative and are currently focused upon citizen action and the formation and implementation of environmental policy in respect of climate change, and on local environmental activism. 

With the aim of promoting interdisciplinary research that transcends departmental boundaries, Professor Rootes founded the Centre for the Study of Social and Political Movements. 

Professor Rootes’ recent current projects include:  

  • Coordinator of the Transformation of Environmental Activism (TEA) project
    A nine-partner, eight-nation comparative study of the changing character of environmentalism in western Europe, funded by the European Commission (DG Research). This is the largest systematically comparative study of environmental activism ever undertaken. Follow-up work has explored the implications of the rise of the climate change agenda for environmental movements and NGOs.
  • Caught in the Act of Protest: Contextualising Contestation (CCC)
    A partner with Clare Saunders (University of Exeter) in this European Science Foundation project, co-ordinated by Bert Klandermans (VU Amsterdam) and part funded by the ESRC. The project involved the administration of standardised surveys of, and interviews with, participants in 10 to 12 street demonstrations in each of seven countries over a period of four years. See the project website for details.


At undergraduate level, Professor Rootes has most recently taught environmental politics and environmental policy. At postgraduate level, he convened the MA in Political Sociology, the MSc in Environmental Social Science, and several modules in these fields.


Professor Rootes offers research supervision on most aspects of environmental movements and NGOs, green parties and environmental protest.



  • Editor-in-chief and Chair, editorial board Environmental Politics
  • International associate editor, Canadian Journal of Sociology
  • Member of the editorial board of Mobilization: the international journal of research and theory about social movements, protest, and collective behaviour
  • Member of the editorial board Social Movement Studies


Showing 50 of 133 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Berny, N. and Rootes, C. (2018). Environmental NGOs at a crossroads? Environmental Politics [Online] 27:947-972. Available at:
    Article published as introduction to the Special Issue 'Environmental Politics at a crossroads', edited by Nathalie Berny & Christopher Rootes, Environmental Politics, November 2018
  • Rootes, C. (2015). Exemplars and Influences: Transnational Flows in the Environmental Movement. Australian Journal of Politics & History [Online] 61:414-431. Available at:
    Transnational flows of ideas are examined through consideration of Green parties, Friends of the Earth, and Earth First!, which represent, respectively, the highly institutionalised, the semi-institutionalised and the resolutely non-institutionalised dimensions of environmental activism. The focus is upon English-speaking countries: US, UK and Australia. Particular attention is paid to Australian cases, both as transmitters and recipients of examples. The influence of Australian examples on Europeans has been overstated in the case of Green parties, was negligible in the case of Friends of the Earth, but surprisingly considerable in the case of Earth First!. Non-violent direct action in Australian rainforests influenced Earth First! in both the US and UK. In each case, the flow of influence was mediated by individuals, and outcomes were shaped by the contexts of the recipients.
  • Ogilvie, M. and Rootes, C. (2015). The impact of local campaigns against wind energy developments. Environmental Politics [Online] 24:874-893. Available at:
    Many scholars have emphasised community resistance to locally sited wind energy schemes in their explanations of wind power planning outcomes and deployment rates, while others have questioned the impact of local objectors. To illuminate ways in which local protestors attempt to influence decisions over the siting of wind turbines, and the efficacy of their efforts, four cases of anti-windfarm protest in England are compared. Local protestors employ community mobilisation and direct argumentation in attempting to influence local authority decision making. At this level, mobilisation is effective, not only bringing political pressure to bear on elected decision makers, but also helping local groups to raise money to hire experts and professional advocates. At public inquiries, protestors have some influence through the supporting role they play to more significant objectors, notably local authorities, but may also influence outcomes through informal contacts preceding public inquiries.
  • Rootes, C. (2014). A Referendum on the Carbon Tax? The 2013 Australian election, the Greens and the environment. Environmental Politics [Online] 23:166-173. Available at:
    The background to, campaign preceding, and results of the Australian general election of 2013 are discussed, as are the likely consequences of the election of a Liberal-National coalition government. The focus is upon the contest over the Labor government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and the opposition's characterisation of it as a 'carbon tax'. Other environmental policies and the fate of the Australian Greens are also discussed.
  • Wahlström, M., Wennerhag, M. and Rootes, C. (2013). Framing "The climate Issue": Patterns of participation and prognostic frames among climate summit protesters. Global Environmental Politics [Online] 13:101-122. Available at:
    Did the protests surrounding recent climate summits mark the emergence of a climate justice movement? We analyze responses to surveys of three large demonstrations in Copenhagen, Brussels, and London, organized in connection with the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference (COP-15) to determine who demonstrated, and how and why the collective action frames employed by demonstrators varied. The demonstrations were products of the mobilization of broad coalitions of groups, and we and significant variation in demonstrators' prognostic framings-the ways in which they formulated solutions to climate problems. Most notably, there was a tension between system-critical framings and those oriented around individual action. A large proportion of demonstrators expressed affinity with the global justice movement (GJM), but we and little evidence of an emerging "climate justice" frame among rank-and-ale protesters. Individual variations in framing reject differences between the mobilization contexts of the three demonstrations, the perspectives and values of individual participants, and the extent of their identification with the GJM. © 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Rootes, C. (2013). From local conflict to national issue: when and how environmental campaigns succeed in transcending the local. Environmental Politics [Online] 22:95-114. Available at:
    As power is increasingly removed from local to national and global arenas, local environmental activists struggle both to secure local redress of their grievances and to place their concerns on supra-local agendas. Yet some succeed in doing so. In order to elucidate the conditions that facilitate such successes, campaigns concerning three issues – road-building, waste incineration and airport expansion – are examined. In each, local campaigners in England have, at least briefly, achieved national attention. Local campaigns are most likely to succeed in elevating their concerns to the status of national issues where they frame those concerns as translocal issues by networking with others with similar grievances. They are most likely to do this with the assistance of non-local actors such as national environmental non-governmental organisations, assistance that is most likely to be provided where the issue concerns a problematic government policy, and to be sustained only so long as that issue is nationally salient and consistent with the campaign priorities of those organisations. The rise of climate change as the ‘master frame’ of environmentalism has had diverse implications for local campaigns.
  • Rootes, C. (2013). Mobilising for the environment: Parties, NGOs, and movements. Environmental Politics [Online] 22:701-705. Available at:
  • Rootes, C., Zito, A. and Barry, J. (2012). Climate change, national politics and grassroots action: An introduction. Environmental Politics [Online] 21:677-690. Available at:
    There is considerable cross-national variation in the patterns of adoption and implementation of policies designed to mitigate climate change. The sources of this variation are considered. International relations, economic structures, national cultures and domestic political competition are factors, often in interaction one with another. In situations of multilevel governance, sub-national actors may be significant. Grassroots activism from without the formal political process has sometimes been critical in sharpening the focus of formal political actors, and increasing their willingness to act. Climate change is a global issue, but the political action necessary to address it is inevitably local and national as well as international.
  • Rootes, C. (2012). Climate change, Environmental Activism and Community Action in Britain. Social Alternatives;Second Quarter 31:24-28.
    The article discusses the challenges presented by climate change to environmental activism and community action in Great Britain. It states that most national governments have acknowledged that climate change is a public policy issue which demands immediate attention. It mentions that the increased interest on climate change has resulted to the formation of new organisations and new forms of action within the environmental movement. It notes that climate change has presented more challenges than opportunities for the national environmental nongovernment organizations (ENGOs).
  • Saunders, C. et al. (2012). Explaining differential protest participation: Novices, returners, repeaters, and stalwarts. Mobilization 17:263-280.
    Protest participation scholarship tends to focus on the special characteristics of novices and the highly committed, underplaying the significance of those in between. In this article, we fill a lacuna in the literature by refocusing attention on four different types of protesters: novices, returners, repeaters, and stalwarts. Employing data from protest surveys of demonstrations that took place in seven European countries (2009-2010), we test whether these types of protesters are differentiated by biographical-structural availability and/or psychologicalattitudinal engagement. Our results suggest that biographical availability distinguishes our four groups, but not as a matter of degree. Few indicators of structural availability distinguish between the groups of protesters, and emotional factors do not distinguish between them at all. Some political engagement factors suggest similarity between novices and returners. This confirms the need to avoid treating protesters as a homogenous group and reinforces the importance of assessing the contributions of diverse factors to sustaining "protest politics.".
  • Rootes, C. (2011). Denied, deferred, triumphant? Climate change, carbon trading and the Greens in the Australian federal election of 21 August 2010. Environmental Politics [Online] 20:410-417. Available at:
  • Rootes, C. and Carter, N. (2010). Take blue, add yellow, get green? The environment in the UK general election of 6 May 2010. Environmental Politics [Online] 19:992-999. Available at:
  • Rootes, C. (2009). More acted upon than acting? campaigns against waste incinerators in England. Environmental Politics [Online] 18:869-895. Available at:
    Campaigns against waste incineration in England never achieved prominence comparable with that of 1990s anti-roads protests. The explanation lies in the relative centrality of policies to government, the availability of allies, and the local nature of policy implementation and siting decisions. Variation in the outcomes of local campaigns is best explained by the differing political opportunity structures of local government. Historic patterns of local waste management, the timing of proposals and changes in government policy are also factors. Sharply rising costs of landfill drive waste authorities to seek alternatives, and new proposals for incineratorsincreased after 2005, provoking the establishment of a national antiincinerator network. However, increased concern about climate change and availability of new, modular waste treatment technologies reduce the appeal of incineration.
  • Rootes, C. and Leonard, L. (2009). Environmental movements and campaigns against waste infrastructure in the United States. Environmental Politics [Online] 18:835-850. Available at:
    Campaigns against waste infrastructure in the US emerged in the 1970s against a background of increasing public anxiety about the impacts of high-tech industrialism upon the environment and human health. Independently of major environmental NGOs, and unlike earlier anti-nuclear campaigns, which also involved grassroots protests, waste campaigners quickly became networked and raised new issues of environmental justice. Initially focused upon landfills and hazardous waste, the environmental justice movement took up and amplified local protests against waste incineration. Independently of popular protest, changes in public policy and the economics of the waste industry also contributed to the unpopularity of waste incineration, and recycling regained appeal. Campaigns against waste infrastructure have contributed to the broadening of the US environmental movement as well as to ecological modernisation.
  • Rootes, C. (2009). Contesting toxics: struggles against hazardous waste. Environmental Politics [Online] 18:287-291. Available at:
    (REVIEW ESSAY) Modern industrial processes have produced goods and chemicals on an
    unprecedented scale. Directly and indirectly, they and the increasingly
    numerous consumers of those goods have also produced prodigious and ever
    increasing quantities of waste, and much of that waste consists of novel
    compounds whose toxicity has only recently been recognised. Disposing of
    waste has become an ever greater problem. The simple expedient of burying it
    in holes in the ground has become increasingly problematic, especially as the
    hazards of doing so have become more apparent. And so alternative and
    purportedly safer and more effective means of dealing with waste have been
    developed, often involving shipping waste over considerable distances in order
    that it may be processed on an industrial scale. Not surprisingly, in this era of
    increasing globalisation, just as the flow of manufactured goods extends
    beyond the boundaries of nation states, so too the flow of hazardous waste
    crosses borders. Transnational problems invite transnational responses. At
    intergovernmental level, there have been successful attempts to establish
    globally effective regimes to prohibit or restrict the production and trade in
    hazardous substances, but both within and beyond states there continue to be
    issues of contention as communities resist the dumping of waste and the siting
    of facilities to dispose of waste. Some of these local campaigns have become
    epic struggles whose stories are scarcely credible tales of skulduggery that are
    remarkably revealing about the distribution and exercise of power in the
    modern world.
  • Rootes, C. (2009). Environmental movements, waste and waste infrastructure: An introduction. Environmental Politics [Online] 18:817-834. Available at:
    The increasing amount and complex nature of municipal waste presents problems of management. Recognising the inadequacies of landfill, waste management authorities proposed incineration, but large-scale incineration provoked more public concern and protest. Concerns about toxicity of incinerator emissions led to tighter regulation, but as evidence of the impacts of air pollution upon human health has hardened, opposition to incineration has persisted. The inequitable distribution of exposure to waste-related risks has generalised demands for environmental justice. There is variation in the extent to which anti-incinerator campaigns are networked among themselves and with environmental NGOs, but such networking has increased and is now transnational. New technologies mitigate some of the hazards of modern waste management but are unlikely to eliminate public protest over the siting of waste infrastructure. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
  • Rootes, C. (2008). The first climate change election? The Australian general election of 24 November 2007. Environmental Politics [Online] 17:473-480. Available at:

Book section

  • Doherty, B., Hayes, G. and Rootes, C. (2016). Social Movement Studies in Britain: No Longer the Poor Relation? in: Fillieule, O. and Accornero, G. eds. Social Movement Studies in Europe: The State of the Art. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 191-213. Available at:
  • Ogilvie, M. and Rootes, C. (2016). The British Anti-Windfarm and Anti-Fracking Movements: A Comparative Analysis. in: Price, S. and Sanz Sabido, R. eds. Sites of Protest: Protest, Media and Culture. London, UK: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 143-162.
    A comparative analysis of anti-wind farm and anti-fracking movements in the UK
  • Sotirakopoulos, N. and Rootes, C. (2014). Occupy London in international and local context. in: Porta, D. della and Mattoni, A. eds. Spreading Protests: Social Movements in Times of Crisis. Colchester, UK: ecpr Press.
    Sets Occupy London in its local and international context, provides evidence based on interviews with participants and on ethnographic observation, and critically analyses the character, meaning and significance of Occupy London
  • Rootes, C. and Nulman, E. (2014). The impacts of environmental movements. in: Porta, D. D. and Diani, M. eds. Oxford Handbook of Social Movements. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 729-742. Available at:
    The impacts of environmental movements (EMs) are indirect and mediated outcomes of efforts by actors ranging from environmental NGOs to grass-roots activists to influence environmental policies and practices of governments and corporations, usually by mobilizing public opinion. With fewer resources than industry groups, EMs’ impacts are dependent on mass media coverage, the fluctuating salience of environmental issues, and political opportunities. EMs influence policy by deploying scientific knowledge, more successfully where they have special expertise. In international negotiations, EMs have acted as brokers between North and South to influence global environmental policies. In authoritarian states, EMs have enlarged scope for civil society and democratic participation.
  • Rootes, C. and Sotirakopoulos, N. (2013). The Global Justice Movement. in: Snow, D. A. et al. eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Rootes, C. (2013). Student Movements. in: Snow, D. A. et al. eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Saunders, C. and Rootes, C. (2013). Patterns of participation. in: Porta, D. D. and Rucht, D. eds. Meeting Democracy: Power and Deliberation in Global Justice Movements. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rootes, C. and Brulle, R. (2013). Environmental Movements. in: Snow, D. A. et al. eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Rootes, C. (2013). Mobilization and the changing and persistent dynamics of political participation. in: Van Stekelenburg, J. and Roggeband, C. eds. The Future of Social Movement Research: Dynamics, Mechanisms, and Processes. University of Minnesota Press.
  • Rootes, C. (2013). The environmental movement in Great Britain. in: Environmental Movements around the world: Shades of Green in Politics and Culture. Santa Barbara CA, Denver CO and Oxford: Praeger.
    An analytical account of the development and character of the environmental movement in Britain
  • Rootes, C. (2011). New Issues, New Forms of Action? Climate Change and Environmental Activism in Britain. in: van Deth, J. W. and Maloney, W. A. eds. New Participatory Dimensions in Civil Society, Professionalization and Individualized Collective Action. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 46-68. Available at:
    New Participatory Dimensions in Civil Society Professionalization and Individualized Collective Action:
    This volume explores how citizens participate in democratic politics today and the development of new participatory forms. It demonstrates that while the benefits of an active citizenry appear great in advanced democracies, many citizens don't find political involvement attractive and increasingly leave the floor to professional associations and opt for individualized modes of collective action. With a series of empirical and comparative case studies, the authors focus on two key types of political participation: the rise of checkbook participation, where citizens are content to contract out the participation function to the policy influencing professionals and pay for this service. Instead of conceiving of these organizations as mass political bodies 'they' may be better represented as supplier/customer relationships - groups sell protest and ersatz political involvement. The growing attractiveness of individualized forms of participation, for example donating money, signing a petition, boycotting products or ethical shopping, rather than a collective form attending meetings, rallies or demonstrations. It will be of interest to students and scholars of comparative politics, civil society, social movements, political participation and democracy studies.
  • Rootes, C. (2010). Environmental Movements. in: Ritzer, G. and Ryan, J. M. eds. The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Rootes, C. (2010). Student Movements. in: Ritzer, G. and Ryan, J. M. eds. The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Rootes, C. (2010). Social Movement Theory. in: Crothers, C. ed. Historical Developments and Theoretical Approaches in Sociology. EOLSS Publishers Co Ltd.
  • Rootes, C. (2009). Environmentalism: Environmental NGOs and the Environmental Movement in England. in: Crowson, N., Hilton, M. and McKay, J. eds. NGOs in Contemporary Britain: Non-state Actors in Society and Politics Since 1945. Basingstok: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 201-221. Available at:
    The history of post-war Britain can only be properly understood with reference to the phenomenon of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They have been right at the heart of every major socio-political initiative. From environmentalism to consumerism; from international aid to human rights; on identity issues such as age, gender, race, religion, disability and sexuality; and on social policy issues such as homelessness, education, child protection and mental health. This book offers the first survey account of NGOs in Britain since 1945. It brings together younger and established scholars to showcase new research presented in the form of surveys of the following areas: environmentalism, international aid and development, human rights, the peace movement, gay rights, sexual politics, women's groups, the anti-apartheid movement, the poverty lobby, drugs, fair-trade, moral reform groups, the relationship between NGOs and the state, and the nature of democracy. It does so by offering accounts of key NGOs in postwar Britain including Amnesty International, the Abortion Law Reform Association, Greenpeace, the Women's Institute, the Child Poverty Action Group and even Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers' and Listeners' Association.
  • Rootes, C. (2008). A burning issue? Governance and anti-incinerator campaigns in Ireland, North and South. in: Rootes, C. and Leonard, L. eds. Environmental Movements and Waste Infrastructure. Routledge, pp. 80-101. Available at:
  • Rootes, C. (2008). The Environmental Movement. in: Klimke, M. and Scharloth, J. eds. 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 295-305.
  • Rootes, C. (2008). Environmental Activism. in: Callicott, J. B. and Frodeman, R. eds. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy. Macmillan Reference USA / Gale / Cengage, pp. 309-313.
  • Rootes, C. (2008). Facing South? British environmental movement organisations and the challenge of globalisation. in: Doherty, B. and Doyle, T. eds. Beyond Borders: Environmental Movements and Transnational Politics. UK: Routledge, pp. 72-90.
  • Rootes, C. (2008). Environmental movements and campaigns against waste infrastructure in the United States. in: Rootes, C. and Leonard, L. eds. Environmental Movements and Waste Infrastructure. Routledge, pp. 19-34. Available at:
  • Rootes, C. (2008). Acting Locally: the character, contexts and significance of local environmental mobilisations. in: Rootes, C. ed. Acting Locally: Environmental Campaigns and Mobilizations at the Local Level. London: Routledge, pp. 2-21.
  • Rootes, C. (2008). Social movements. in: Cane, P. and Conaghan, J. eds. The New Oxford Companion to Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1093-1095.
  • Rootes, C. and Saunders, C. (2008). Le développement du mouvement pour une justice globale en Grande-Bretagne (The development of the global justice movement in Britain). in: Sommier, I., Fillieule, O. and Agrikoliansky, E. eds. Généalogie des mouvements altermondialistes en Europe : Une perspective comparée. Paris: Karthala, pp. 67-86.
  • Rootes, C. (2007). Preface to the paperback edition. in: Rootes, C. ed. Environmental Protest in Western Europe. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, p. v-xviii.

Conference or workshop item

  • Rootes, C. (2008). The First Climate Change Election? The Australian General Election of 24 November, 2007. in: Greenwave masterclass, Green Alliance.
  • Rootes, C. and Saunders, C. (2008). Climate Change and Global Justice: Patterns of participation in the Stop Climate Chaos and Make Poverty History marches. in: Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change / International Conference of the Social-Ecological Research Programme.
    There is abundant evidence of increasing public concern about climate change, but so far relatively little participation in demonstrations on the issue, certainly by comparison with the global justice and anti-war demonstrations of recent years. In order better to understand who does demonstrate against climate change, in November 2006 we surveyed 674 participants (and interviewed 256) in the I Count / Stop Climate Chaos march and rally in London. We then compared the results with those of a similar survey we administered to 563 participants in the July 2005 Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh (where we also interviewed 493). We discuss the similarities and differences between the patterns of participation, the overlap between participants in the global justice and climate change demonstrations, and the network links among the organisations and social movement sectors involved in each.
  • Rootes, C. and Saunders, C. (2007). Demonstrations of democracy: the Make Poverty History and Stop Climate Chaos marches. in: European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions.. Available at:
  • Rootes, C. (2007). From the local to the global: the globalization of humanitarian concern and the emergence of “global citizenship”. in: European Consortium for Political Research conference.
  • Rootes, C. (2007). From the local to the global? in: Mapping the public policy landscape: From local to global.

Edited book

  • Rootes, C. ed. (2008). Acting Locally: Local Environmental Mobilizations and Campaigns. Routledge.
    Local campaigns are the most persistent and ubiquitous forms of environmental contention. National and transnational mobilisations come and go and the attention they receive from mass media ebbs and flows, but local campaigns persist. The persistence or re-emergence of local campaigns is also a reminder that it remain possible to mobilise people around environmental issues, and they have often served as sources of innovation in and re-invigoration of national organisations that have allegedly been co-opted by the powerful and incorporated into the established political and administrative system.

    But local environmental campaigns have been relatively neglected in the scientific literature. Drawing on examples from Britain, France, Greece, Ireland and Italy, this book seeks to redress that neglect by examining the networks among actors and organisations that connect local mobilizations to the larger environmental movement and political systems, the ways in which local disputes are framed in order to connect with national and global issues, and the persistent impacts of the peculiarities of place upon environmental campaigns.

Research report (external)

  • Barnett, J. et al. (2008). Understanding Special Interest Groups. [Online]. Bristol: Environment Agency. Available at:
    This report describes research carried out over two years (2002 – 2004) on relationships between the Environment Agency and special interest groups, a term used here to
    describe non-governmental non-profit-making groups with a special interest in areas or issues in which the Environment Agency is involved. The report is aimed primarily at staff who work with special interest groups at the local or national level.


  • Rootes, C. (2008). Understanding Political Participation: Green Party Membership in Scotland. Party Politics [Online] 14:380-382. Available at:
  • Rootes, C. (2008). Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the politics of Possibility. International Affairs [Online] 84:1317-1319. Available at:
Last updated