Saying you are an environmentalist is opening yourself up to be admired, ridiculed, questioned, respected, misunderstood, maligned, appreciated, or ignored.
Lately, I have been contemplating what it means to be an environmentalist. In this post, I will attempt to get my arms around this term, which seems to evoke either strong emotional responses or indifference.
What is an Environmentalist?
First, I consulted my trusty Webster’s Dictionary and looked up the words environment and environmentalist.
3 (a) – all the conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding, and affecting the development of, an organism or group of organisms.
3 (b) – all of the conditions, circumstances, etc. that surround and influence life on earth, including atmospheric conditions, food chains, and the water cycle.
2 – a person working to solve environmental problems, as air and water pollution, the exhaustion of natural resources, and uncontrolled population growth.
Next, I scanned the Internet turning up a number of words related to or sometimes used in place of the term environmentalist including: conservationist, tree hugger, friend of the earth, preservationist, climate hawk, green, naturalist, Gore-ologist, hippie, eco-warrior, bioneer, do-gooder, liberal, planetarian, sky hugger, progressive, eco-terrorist, job killer, anti-pollutionist, biologist, energeer, green patriot, climate criminal, activist, environmental steward, botanist, zoologist, sustainablist, eco-fundamentalist, greenie, neodynamist, ecologist, green warrior, and earth guardian.
Depending on the place you occupy on the environmentalist continuum, the above words may elicit positive or negative feelings and may describe you in part or not at all. For instance, tree hugger and bioneer resonate with me but not biologist or eco-terrorist.
I am an Environmentalist
A decade ago, if I was asked to describe myself, the word environmentalist would not have been on the list. Now, I clearly identify as an environmentalist.
I did not happen overnight.
My transformation occurred over a period of several years. As I became increasingly aware of events happening near my home and around the world, I took it upon myself to learn about issues such as climate change, air and water pollution, deforestation, food deserts, and biodiversity loss. In turn, I searched for information on topics like green building, organic food, and renewable energy.
I realized that our way of living is harming us and every other living thing on Earth. We need to change right now.
Although I believe polar bears are important and deserving of a safe place to live, I am an environmentalist for the sake of people, especially my children and everyone else’s.
I am a Tree Hugger
Being an environmentalist somehow freed me to become a tree hugger, literally. I actually hug trees. Trees have always fascinated me; each one is unique and beautiful. As I stand in my yard, a park, or a forest, I imagine the stories the trees could tell me about the place they live, if only I could speak their language.
I am proud to be a tree hugger, but oddly, I also find myself using the term as an explanation for my behavior. For instance, I refuse a single-use plastic bottle of water by saying, “No thanks, I’m a tree hugger.” or I say to a store clerk, “I don’t want a bag, I’m a tree hugger.”
Upon reflection, it occurs to me that I do not need to explain or justify my actions. I could just say, “No thank you.” On the other hand, I could use these opportunities to share information like, “No thank you. Did you know it takes 1.3 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water?” or “No thank you. Did you know paper mills use an enormous amount of water and electricity to make those bags people take home and throw away?” Well, on second thought, there is a time to share and a time to smile and say “No thank you.”
Everyone is an Environmentalist
We are not separate from the environment we are part of it. What we do to the environment we do to ourselves and other living things around us.
With the exception of few people, I think everyone else has a strong desire for humans to continue to inhabit Earth now and in the future. At this time, there is no planet B so we must do whatever it takes to heal and rehabilitate planet A, Earth.
I believe the heart of an environmentalist resides in everyone; it is just that some people have not discovered it yet.
- Biomimicry – Book Review
- Eco Amazons – Book Review
- John Muir: The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books – Book Review
- Living Downstream – Book Review
- Love Canal – Book Review
- Oil and Honey – Book Review
- Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy – Book Review
- Silent Spring – Book Review
- The Lorax – Book Review
- The World is Blue – Book Review
- Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition