Environmentalism (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Environmentalism entails advocating for and taking part in activities aimed at preserving and protecting the natural environment. Environmentalists support many different ways of achieving their goals. Among the many concerns of environmentalists are the reduction of the pollution of air, soil, and water; the prevention of the introduction of species of plants and animals into ecosystems to which they are not native; and the prevention of the encroachment of human activities into natural areas.
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American Environmentalism (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
When early European settlers arrived in the Western Hemisphere, they exploited every resource they found, including the native populations. Such exploitation continued in the American colonies during English control. After the Revolutionary War, most Americans were committed to environmental exploitation and westward expansion. They swiftly harvested forests and quickly exhausted arable land with nutrient-needy crops. The slaughter of wild animals for food and pelts and of whales for oil, ambergris, and other products was rampant. Discoveries of gold, silver, and other precious minerals were rapidly exploited.
In the nineteenth century some Americans became concerned about this trend, and New England Transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson began to write about the value of the natural environment. Gradually public opinion began to shift, and increasing numbers of Americans began to see the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources as less than admirable. Grassroots organizations began to form in response to local environmental concerns during the late nineteenth century. John Muir, one of the founders of the Sierra Club and an advocate of preservation of forests in the American West, was instrumental in influencing popular opinion for environmental preservation.
Another important figure during this period was Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot, son of a wealthy land speculator and...
(The entire section is 765 words.)
Environmental Advocacy (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Prior to the 1960’s, various American grassroots groups advocated on behalf of wildlife preservation and opposed such activities as lumbering, dam building, and mining in wilderness areas. After the publication of Silent Spring, such efforts expanded to include national campaigns aimed at reducing the pollution caused by toxic chemicals from agricultural and industrial sources. As increasing numbers of environmental groups formed on the national level, their repeated use of legal advocacy led to the establishment of the field of environmental law.
Greenpeace,an international environmental watchdog organization, was formed in 1971 in British Columbia and rapidly became known for its confrontational tactics, pitting environmental activists against corporate and government entities. Originally Greenpeace focused primarily on protests against nuclear testing, whaling, and seal hunting, but over time its work evolved to address many other environmental issues as well. In the early years of the twenty-first century, Greenpeace stated that global warming presents the greatest environmental threat to the planet.
By the late twentieth century, Green political parties had become increasingly important carriers of the environmental message. In the United States, the Green Party gained attention with its nomination of Ralph Nader as candidate for U.S. president in 1996; Nader was also the party’s candidate in...
(The entire section is 656 words.)
Antienvironmentalism (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Environmentalism has had a number of well-known critics. Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish academic, was a Greenpeace advocate before he conducted a series of statistical studies of environmentalist claims. His published conclusions were that many claims of impending environmental disaster are grossly overstated.
Within the United States, some individuals and organizations view environmentalists as people opposed to continued technological progress. Author and filmmaker Michael Crichton alleged that environmentalism is a religion. He criticized environmentalists for not using “complexity theory” in environmental management. Crichton was also critical of the idea of global warming, asserting that environmentalists use statistical “tricks” to hide data that contradict the concept that greenhouse gas emissions affect the environment.
Various governments around the world have taken violent actions against environmental activists. An infamous example is the sinking of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 in a New Zealand port by operatives of the French General Directorate for External Security. The Rainbow Warrior had been shadowing French nuclear vessels to protest nuclear testing in French Polynesia. The French government paid compensation for sinking the ship.
(The entire section is 177 words.)
Global Environmentalism and Sustainable Development (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Two similar concepts emerged during the 1990’s: green development and sustainable development. Green development puts environmental concerns above social and economic concerns. Those who advocate sustainable development call for meeting immediate social, economic, and environmental needs in a way that can be maintained for future generations. Some observers contend that the concept of environmentalism underwent a paradigm shift before the twenty-first century, during which it was replaced by the concept of sustainability.
The promotion of sustainable development is sometimes characterized as an attempt by developed countries to exert “protectionism/paternalism” on less developed regions of the world. Some critics of sustainable development believe that it requires limits to population growth. Other critics argue that development of any kind conflicts with environmentalism.
Instead of funding large (and costly) infrastructure programs, such as building dams, in developing countries, governments and organizations that promote sustainability tend to focus on so-called appropriate technology to provide cheap solutions to everyday problems. Some of these inexpensive efforts, such as the introduction of solar cookers at refugee camps in Sudan’s Darfur region, have been relatively successful.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Andrews, Richard N. L. Managing the Environment, Managing Ourselves: A History of American Environmental Policy. 2d ed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006.
Delcourt, Paul, and Hazel Delcourt. Living Well in the Age of Global Warming: Ten Strategies for Boomers, Bobos, and Cultural Creatives. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green, 2001.
Edwards, Andres R. The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society, 2005.
Kline, Benjamin. First Along the River: A Brief History of the United States Environmental Movement. 3d ed. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
Liddick, Don. Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2006.
Lomborg, Bjørn. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Maher, Neil M. Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
(The entire section is 143 words.)