Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Environmentalism on United States stamps

Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad

social ecology
and environmentalism. Ecologism is more commonly used in continental European languages, while environmentalism is more commonly used in English but the words have slightly different connotations.

Environmentalism advocates the preservation, restoration and improvement of the natural environment and critical earth system elements or processes such as the climate, and may be referred to as a movement to control pollution or protect plant and animal diversity.[1] For this reason, concepts such as a land ethics, environmental ethics, biodiversity, ecology, and the biophilia hypothesis figure predominantly.

At its crux, environmentalism is an attempt to balance relations between humans and the various natural systems on which they depend in such a way that all the components are accorded a proper degree of sustainability.[2] The exact measures and outcomes of this balance is controversial and there are many different ways for environmental concerns to be expressed in practice. Environmentalism and environmental concerns are often represented by the colour green,[3] but this association has been appropriated by the marketing industries for the tactic known as greenwashing.[4]

Environmentalism is opposed by anti-environmentalism, which says that the Earth is less fragile than some environmentalists maintain, and portrays environmentalism as overreacting to the human contribution to climate change or opposing human advancement.[5]


Environmentalism denotes a social movement that seeks to influence the political process by lobbying, activism, and education in order to protect natural resources and ecosystems.


renewable resources, improved efficiencies in the materials economy, transitioning to new accounting paradigms such as ecological economics
, renewing and revitalizing our connections with non-human life or even opting to have one less child to reduce consumption and pressure on resources.

In various ways (for example, grassroots activism and protests), environmentalists and

environmental organisations seek to give the natural world a stronger voice in human affairs.[6]

In general terms, environmentalists advocate the sustainable management of resources, and the protection (and restoration, when necessary) of the natural environment through changes in public policy and individual behaviour. In its recognition of humanity as a participant in ecosystems, the movement is centered around ecology, health, and human rights.


A concern for environmental protection has recurred in diverse forms, in different parts of the world, throughout history. The earliest ideas of environmental protectionism can be found in Jainism, a religion from ancient India revived by Mahavira in the 6th century BC. Jainism offers a view that is in many ways compatible with core values associated with environmental activism, such as the protection of life by nonviolence, which could form a strong ecological ethos for global protection of the environment. Mahavira's teachings on the symbiosis between all living beings—as well as the five elements of earth, water, air, fire, and space—are core to environmental thought today.[7][8]

In the Middle East, the

Abd-el-latif, Ibn al-Quff, and Ibn al-Nafis. Their works covered a number of subjects related to pollution, such as air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, and the mishandling of municipal solid waste. They also included assessments of certain localities' environmental impact.[10]

In Europe, King Edward I of England banned the burning and sale of "sea-coal" in 1272 by proclamation in London, after its smoke had become a prevalent annoyance throughout the city.[11][12] This fuel, common in London due to the local scarcity of wood, was given this early name because it could be found washed up on some shores, from where it was carted away on a wheelbarrow.

Early environmental legislation

Levels of air pollution rose during the Industrial Revolution, sparking the first modern environmental laws to be passed in the mid-19th century.

At the advent of steam and electricity the muse of history holds her nose and shuts her eyes (H. G. Wells 1918).[13]

The origins of the environmental movement lay in the response to increasing levels of

soda ash. An Alkali inspector and four sub-inspectors were appointed to curb this pollution. The inspectorate's responsibilities were gradually expanded, culminating in the Alkali Order 1958 which placed all major heavy industries that emitted smoke
, grit, dust and fumes under supervision.

In industrial cities, local experts and reformers, especially after 1890, took the lead in identifying environmental degradation and pollution, and initiating grass-roots movements to demand and achieve reforms.[15] Typically the highest priority went to water and air pollution. The Coal Smoke Abatement Society was formed in 1898 making it one of the oldest environmental NGOs. It was founded by artist Sir William Blake Richmond, frustrated with the pall cast by coal smoke. Although there were earlier pieces of legislation, the Public Health Act 1875 required all furnaces and fireplaces to consume their own smoke. It also provided for sanctions against factories that emitted large amounts of black smoke. This law's provisions were extended in 1926 with the Smoke Abatement Act to include other emissions, such as soot, ash, and gritty particles, and to empower local authorities to impose their own regulations.

It was only under the impetus of the

Great Smog of 1952 in London, which almost brought the city to a standstill and may have caused upward of 6,000 deaths, that the Clean Air Act 1956 was passed and airborne pollution in the city was first tackled. Financial incentives were offered to householders to replace open coal fires with alternatives (such as installing gas fires) or those who preferred, to burn coke instead (a byproduct of town gas production) which produces minimal smoke. 'Smoke control areas' were introduced in some towns and cities where only smokeless fuels could be burnt and power stations were relocated away from cities. The act formed an important impetus to modern environmentalism and caused a rethinking of the dangers of environmental degradation to people's quality of life.[16]

The late 19th century also saw the passage of the first wildlife conservation laws. The zoologist Alfred Newton published a series of investigations into the Desirability of establishing a 'Close-time' for the preservation of indigenous animals between 1872 and 1903. His advocacy for legislation to protect animals from hunting during the mating season led to the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and influenced the passage of the Sea Birds Preservation Act in 1869 as the first nature protection law in the world.[17][18]

During the

anarchist territories would diversify crops, extend irrigation, initiate reforestation, start tree nurseries and help to establish naturist communities.[19] Once there was a link discovered between air pollution and tuberculosis, the CNT shut down several metal factories.[20]

First environmental movements

Early interest in the environment was a feature of the

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in his 1903 publication Jinsei Chirigaku (A Geography of Human Life).[21] In Britain the poet William Wordsworth travelled extensively in the Lake District and wrote that it is a "sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy".[22]

John Ruskin, an influential thinker who articulated the Romantic ideal of environmental protection and conservation

Systematic efforts on behalf of the environment only began in the late 19th century; it grew out of the amenity movement in Britain in the 1870s, which was a reaction to

Robert Hunter, solicitor for the society, worked with Hardwicke Rawnsley, Octavia Hill, and John Ruskin to lead a successful campaign to prevent the construction of railways to carry slate from the quarries, which would have ruined the unspoiled valleys of Newlands and Ennerdale. This success led to the formation of the Lake District Defence Society (later to become The Friends of the Lake District).[23]

social ecology

In 1893 Hill, Hunter and Rawnsley agreed to set up a national body to coordinate environmental conservation efforts across the country; the "National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty" was formally inaugurated in 1894.[25] The organisation obtained secure footing through the 1907 National Trust Bill, which gave the trust the status of a statutory corporation.[26] and the bill was passed in August 1907.[27]

An early "Back-to-Nature" movement, which anticipated the romantic ideal of modern environmentalism, was advocated by intellectuals such as John Ruskin, William Morris, George Bernard Shaw and Edward Carpenter, who were all against consumerism, pollution and other activities that were harmful to the natural world.[28] The movement was a reaction to the urban conditions of the industrial towns, where sanitation was awful, pollution levels intolerable and housing terribly cramped. Idealists championed the rural life as a mythical utopia and advocated a return to it. John Ruskin argued that people should return to a "small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful, and fruitful. We will have no steam engines upon it ... we will have plenty of flowers and vegetables ... we will have some music and poetry; the children will learn to dance to it and sing it."[29]

Practical ventures in the establishment of small cooperative farms were even attempted and old rural traditions, without the "taint of manufacture or the canker of artificiality", were enthusiastically revived, including the Morris dance and the maypole.[30]

These ideas also inspired various environmental groups in the UK, such as the

ornithologist Professor Alfred Newton. By 1900, public support for the organisation had grown, and it had over 25,000 members. The garden city movement incorporated many environmental concerns into its urban planning manifesto; the Socialist League and The Clarion movement also began to advocate measures of nature conservation.[32]

Original title page of Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The movement in the United States began in the late 19th century, out of concerns for protecting the natural resources of the West, with individuals such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau making key philosophical contributions. Thoreau was interested in peoples' relationship with nature and studied this by living close to nature in a simple life. He published his experiences in the book Walden, which argues that people should become intimately close with nature. Muir came to believe in nature's inherent right, especially after spending time hiking in Yosemite Valley and studying both the ecology and geology. He successfully lobbied congress to form Yosemite National Park and went on to set up the Sierra Club in 1892. The conservationist principles as well as the belief in an inherent right of nature were to become the bedrock of modern environmentalism.

In the 20th century, environmental ideas continued to grow in popularity and recognition. Efforts were starting to be made to save some wildlife, particularly the American bison. The death of the last passenger pigeon as well as the endangerment of the American bison helped to focus the minds of conservationists and to popularise their concerns. In 1916, the National Park Service was founded by US President Woodrow Wilson.

The Forestry Commission was set up in 1919 in Britain to increase the amount of woodland in Britain by buying land for afforestation and reforestation. The commission was also tasked with promoting forestry and the production of timber for trade.[33] During the 1920s the Commission focused on acquiring land to begin planting out new forests; much of the land was previously used for agricultural purposes. By 1939 the Forestry Commission was the largest landowner in Britain.[34]

During the 1930s the Nazis had elements that were supportive of animal rights, zoos and wildlife,

Several Nazis were environmentalists (notably Rudolf Hess), and species protection and animal welfare were significant issues in the regime.[36] In 1935, the regime enacted the "Reich Nature Protection Act" (Reichsnaturschutzgesetz). The concept of the Dauerwald (best translated as the "perpetual forest") which included concepts such as forest management and protection was promoted and efforts were also made to curb air pollution.[39]

In 1949, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold was published. It explained Leopold's belief that humankind should have moral respect for the environment and that it is unethical to harm it. The book is sometimes called the most influential book on conservation.

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and beyond, photography was used to enhance public awareness of the need for protecting land and recruiting members to environmental organisations. David Brower, Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall created the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which helped raise public environmental awareness and brought a rapidly increasing flood of new members to the Sierra Club and to the environmental movement in general. This Is Dinosaur, edited by Wallace Stegner with photographs by Martin Litton and Philip Hyde, prevented the building of dams within Dinosaur National Monument by becoming part of a new kind of activism called environmentalism that combined the conservationist ideals of Thoreau, Leopold and Muir with hard-hitting advertising, lobbying, book distribution, letter writing campaigns, and more. The powerful use of photography in addition to the written word for conservation dated back to the creation of Yosemite National Park, when photographs persuaded Abraham Lincoln to preserve the beautiful glacier carved landscape for all time. The Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series galvanised public opposition to building dams in the Grand Canyon and protected many other national treasures. The Sierra Club often led a coalition of many environmental groups including the Wilderness Society and many others.

After a focus on preserving wilderness in the 1950s and 1960s, the Sierra Club and other groups broadened their focus to include such issues as air and water pollution, population concern, and curbing the exploitation of natural resources.

The prevailing belief regarding the origins of early environmentalism suggests that it emerged as a local response to the adverse impacts of industrialization in Western nations and communities. In terms of conservation efforts, there is a widespread view that the conservation movement began as a predominantly elite concern in North America, focusing on the preservation of local natural areas. A less prevailing view, however, attributes the roots of early environmentalism to a growing public concern about the influence of Western economic forces, particularly in connection with colonization, on tropical environments.[40] Richard Grove, in a 1990 report, points out that little attention has been given to the significance of the colonial experience, particularly the European colonial experience, in shaping early European environmentalism.[40]

Grove argues that as European colonization expanded, so did the European interaction with land and indigenous people, providing Europeans with an awareness of the destructive consequences of their economic and colonial activities on the newly "discovered" lands. As global trade expanded through colonization, the European concept of nature underwent a transformation, with the foreign tropical environments of their conquests evolving into romantic symbols of idyllic landscapes that required care and protection by Europeans. Examples of this impact of colonization on the Western mindset can be found in prominent cultural references, such as William Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" and Andrew Marvell's poem "Bermoothes."[40]

Although this newfound self-awareness among Europeans about the destructive impacts of colonization on the environment did not halt the expansion of colonization itself, it did pave the way for a different approach to colonization – one focused on the preservation and protection of foreign natural resources. This phenomenon can be linked to the emergence of Edenic thinking, or the quest for Eden on Earth. This quest to locate Eden gained prominence in the 15th century, coinciding with colonization, and fostered the belief that newly "discovered" lands, especially tropical ones, had the potential to be heavenly paradises.[40]

Post-war expansion

In the United States and several other countries, the boom was manifested in suburban development and urban sprawl, aided by automobile ownership.

In 1962,

disease vector control continues to this day in certain parts of the world and remains controversial. The book's legacy was to produce a far greater awareness of environmental issues and interest into how people affect the environment. With this new interest in environment came interest in problems such as air pollution and petroleum spills, and environmental interest grew. New pressure groups formed, notably Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (US), as well as notable local organisations such as the Wyoming Outdoor Council, which was founded in 1967. From 1962 to 1998, the environmental movement founded 772 national organizations in the United States.[42]

In the 1970s, the environmental movement gained rapid speed around the world as a productive outgrowth of the counterculture movement.[43]

The world's first political parties to campaign on a predominantly environmental platform were the

Ecology Party, and then the Green Party

Protection of the environment also became important in the

Mhatmas Gandhi and they set up peaceful resistance to deforestation
by literally hugging trees (leading to the term "tree huggers"). Their peaceful methods of protest and slogan "ecology is permanent economy" were very influential.

Another milestone in the movement was the creation of

Earth Day Network,[46] and is celebrated in more than 192 countries every year.[47]

The UN's first major conference on international environmental issues, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference), was held on 5–16 June 1972. It marked a turning point in the development of international environmental politics.[48]

By the mid-1970s, many felt that people were on the edge of environmental catastrophe. The

Endangered Species Act in 1973 and the formation of CITES in 1975. Significant amendments were also enacted to the United States Clean Air Act[49] and Clean Water Act.[50]

In 1979, James Lovelock, a British scientist, published Gaia: A new look at life on Earth, which put forth the Gaia hypothesis; it proposes that life on earth can be understood as a single organism. This became an important part of the Deep Green ideology. Throughout the rest of the history of environmentalism there has been debate and argument between more radical followers of this Deep Green ideology and more mainstream environmentalists.

21st century and beyond

Environmentalism continues to evolve to face up to new issues such as


Research demonstrates a precipitous decline in the US public's interest in 19 different areas of environmental concern.[51] Americans are less likely to be actively participating in an environmental movement or organisation and more likely to identify as "unsympathetic" to an environmental movement than in 2000.[52] This is likely a lingering factor of the Great Recession in 2008. Since 2005, the percentage of Americans agreeing that the environment should be given priority over economic growth has dropped 10 points; in contrast, those feeling that growth should be given priority "even if the environment suffers to some extent" has risen 12 percent.[52] Nevertheless, a recent National Geographic survey indicated strong desire for commitment across a dozen countries, indicating a majority were in favour of more than half of the Earth's land surface being protected.[53]

New forms of ecoactivism

Demonstrators in a tree at the Berkeley oak grove protest in 2008

Tree sitting is a form of activism in which the protester sits in a tree in an attempt to stop the removal of a tree or to impede the demolition of an area with the longest and most famous tree-sitter being Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent 738 days in a California Redwood, saving a three-acre tract of forest.[54] Also notable is the Yellow Finch tree sit, which was a 932-day blockade of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from 2018 to 2021.[55][56]

Sit-ins can be used to encourage social change, such as the Greensboro sit-ins, a series of protests in 1960 to stop racial segregation, but can also be used in ecoactivism, as in the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest.[57]

Before the

public transportation and promoting environmental awareness within their communities.[58]

The Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities are firmly environmentalist and have stopped the extraction of oil, uranium, timber and metal from the Lacandon Jungle and stopped the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in farming.[59]


Plan Puebla Panama.[60]

Environmental movement

Before flue-gas desulfurization was installed, the air-polluting emissions from this power plant in New Mexico contained excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide.

The environmental movement (a term that sometimes includes the conservation and green movements) is a diverse scientific, social, and political movement. Though the movement is represented by a range of organisations, because of the inclusion of environmentalism in the classroom curriculum,[61][62] the environmental movement has a younger demographic than is common in other social movements (see green seniors).

Environmentalism as a movement covers broad areas of institutional oppression, including for example: consumption of ecosystems and natural resources into waste, dumping waste into disadvantaged communities, air pollution, water pollution, weak infrastructure, exposure of organic life to toxins, mono-culture, anti-polythene drive (jhola movement) and various other focuses. Because of these divisions, the environmental movement can be categorized into these primary focuses: environmental science, environmental activism, environmental advocacy, and environmental justice.[63]

Free market environmentalism

Free market environmentalism is a theory that argues that the

property rights, and tort law provide the best tools to preserve the health and sustainability of the environment. It considers environmental stewardship to be natural, as well as the expulsion of polluters and other aggressors through individual and class action

Evangelical environmentalism

Evangelical environmentalism is an environmental movement in the United States in which some Evangelicals have emphasized biblical mandates concerning humanity's role as steward and subsequent responsibility for the care taking of Creation. While the movement has focused on different environmental issues, it is best known for its focus of addressing climate action from a biblically grounded theological perspective. This movement is controversial among some non-Christian environmentalists due to its rooting in a specific religion.

Preservation and conservation

Federal Register documents and literature related to US environmental regulations, including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 1987

Environmental preservation in the United States and other parts of the world, including Australia, is viewed as the setting aside of natural resources to prevent damage caused by contact with humans or by certain human activities, such as logging, mining, hunting, and fishing, often to replace them with new human activities such as tourism and recreation.[64] Regulations and laws may be enacted for the preservation of natural resources.

Exergy and availability of resources

Thermodynamic derived environmentalism is based on the second law of thermodynamics, minimization of exergy disruption (or entropy generation)and the concept of availability. It moves from he milestone work of Jan Szargut who emphasized the relation between exergy and availability,[65] it is necessary to remember "Exergy Ecology and Democracy".[66] by

SDGs and the methods which are suggested for verifying the advances of the countries. This activity has evidenced that objective and coherent parameters are missing. Therefore, they suggest the introduction of exergy analysis as the most effective method for estimating the environmental degradation.[67][68]
Therefore, a novel fiscal model based on Exergy and availability disruption has been defined as the only possible way for overcoming the problems induced by the globalized markets.

Organisations and conferences

Reef doctor work station in Ifaty, Madagascar

Environmental organisations can be global, regional, national or local; they can be government-run or private (

). Environmentalist activity exists in almost every country. Moreover, groups dedicated to community development and social justice also focus on environmental concerns.

Some US environmental organisations, among them the

ecosystems. More radical organisations, such as Greenpeace, Earth First!, and the Earth Liberation Front
, have more directly opposed actions they regard as environmentally harmful. While Greenpeace is devoted to nonviolent confrontation as a means of bearing witness to environmental wrongs and bringing issues into the public realm for debate, the underground Earth Liberation Front engages in the clandestine destruction of property, the release of caged or penned animals, and other criminal acts. Such tactics are regarded as unusual within the movement, however.

On an international level, concern for the environment was the subject of a


Environmental protests

British Airports Authority
's headquarters for day of action.
"March Against Monsanto", Vancouver, Canada, 25 May 2013

Notable environmental protests and campaigns include:


Notable advocates for environmental protection and sustainability include:


Flamingo, Florida

Every year, more than 100 environmental activists are murdered throughout the world.[72] Most recent deaths are in Brazil, where activists combat logging in the Amazon rainforest.[73]

116 environmental activists were

assassinated in 2014,[74] and 185 in 2015.[72] This represents more than two environmentalists assassinated every week in 2014 and three every week in 2015.[75][76] More than 200 environmental activists were assassinated worldwide between 2016 and early 2018.[77] A 2020 incident saw several rangers murdered in the Congo Rainforest by poaching squads. Occurrences like this are relatively common, and account for a large number of deaths.[78]

In popular culture

  • The
    Smokey the Bear in 1944; he appeared in countless posters, radio and television programs, movies, press releases, and other guises to warn about forest fires.[79]
  • The comic strip Mark Trail, by environmentalist Ed Dodd, began in 1946; it still appears weekly in 175 newspapers.
  • The children's animated show Captain Planet and the Planeteers, created by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle in 1989 to inform children about environmental issues. The show aired for six seasons and 113 episodes, in 100 countries worldwide from 1990 to 1996.[80]
  • In 1974,
    Expo 74, the first world's fair to focus on the environment. The theme of Expo 74 was "Celebrating Tomorrow's Fresh New Environment." (In 1982, Knoxville, Tennessee, was another small city to host a world's fair: Expo '82
    , with the theme, "Energy Turns the World.")
  • FernGully: The Last Rainforest is an animated motion picture released in 1992, which focuses exclusively on the environment. The movie is based on a book under the same title by Diana Young. In 1998, a sequel, FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue, was introduced.
  • World Wildlife Foundation
  • Another area of environmentalism is to use art to raise awareness about misuse of the environment.[81][82][83] One example is trashion, using trash to create clothes, jewelry, and other objects for the home. Marina DeBris is one trashion artist, who focuses on ocean and beach trash to design clothes and for fund raising, education.

Criticism and alternative views

When environmentalism first became popular during the early 20th century, the focus was wilderness protection and wildlife preservation. These goals reflected the interests of the movement's initial, primarily white middle and upper class supporters, including through viewing preservation and protection via a lens that failed to appreciate the centuries-long work of indigenous communities who had lived without ushering in the types of environmental devastation these settler colonial "environmentalists" now sought to mitigate. The actions of many mainstream environmental organizations still reflect these early principles.

PIBBY principle, or at least the PIMBY (Place-in-minorities'-backyard), as supported by the United Church of Christ's study in 1987.[87]

As a result, some minorities have viewed the environmental movement as elitist. Environmental elitism manifested itself in three different forms:

  1. Compositional – Environmentalists are from the middle and upper class.
  2. Ideological – The reforms benefit the movement's supporters but impose costs on nonparticipants.
  3. Impact – The reforms have "regressive social impacts". They disproportionately benefit environmentalists and harm underrepresented populations.[88]

Many environmentalists believe that human interference with 'nature' should be restricted or minimised as a matter of urgency (for the sake of life, or the planet, or just for the benefit of the human species),

environmental skeptics and anti-environmentalists do not believe that there is such a need.[90] One can also regard oneself as an environmentalist and believe that human 'interference' with 'nature' should be increased.[91] Nevertheless, there is a risk that the shift from emotional environmentalism into the technical management of natural resources and hazards could decrease the touch of humans with nature, leading to less concern with environment preservation.[92] Increasingly, typical conservation rhetoric is being replaced with restoration approaches and larger landscape initiatives that seek to create more holistic impacts.[93]

In the 2000s, American author, film director, medical graduate and intellect Michael Crichton criticized environmentalism as being religiously motivated rather than grounded in empirical evidence, arguing that climate change was a natural part of Earth's history and had been occurring long before humans dominated the planet. Also claiming to argue from his minor education in anthropology, he stated that religion was a part of human social make-up and that if it was suppressed, it would simply re-emerge in another form. With the decline of Christianity and Church attendance in the Western world, environmentalism has become more popular according to him, which he termed as "the religion of urban atheists".[94][95][96][97]

Others seek a balance that involves both caring deeply for the environment while letting science guide human actions affecting it. Such an approach would avoid the emotionalism which, for example, anti-

ecological concerns such as the effect on water cycles and the use of nonnative, potentially invasive species.[98]

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Further reading

External links