As a child in the 60’s, I had a fascination and curiosity for nature. Growing up in Coquitlam, BC I had the freedom to experience, explore, camp and live in the woods and ravines near my home. When I look back, I really did have a Huckleberry Finn childhood (previous blog – unfettered childhood). As a result, I gravitated to the natural sciences, obtained a degree in Biology and made a professional career in the environmental field spanning 35 years. Along the way I obtained the label “environmentalist”. So what is an environmentalist?
In the 1970’s, an environmentalist (a new word then) was considered to be a long-haired, beaded, dope-smokin’, hippie. Tree Hugger, Greenie, Radical, Lefty, Pinko and other names were used by those who considered anyone who spoke up about environmental issues to be a threat . (some of our politicians still do – more later). The passionate activists get the media coverage and garner most of the attention because they use unorthodox methods to raise awareness. These folks conjure the image of an environmentalist. This is true due to the controversial history of the movement but only because the media perpetuates this image.
An environmentalist today, however, is likely registered with one of the many professions now working together on these issues and challenges. Universities around the world have developed specific environmental courses and degrees and are generating robust scientific research on the myriad of environmental issues and challenges we face. Over the years, I have worked with Professional Engineers, Foresters, Geo-scientists, Climatologists, Hydrologist, Planners, Biologists, Agrologists, Lawyers, Architects, Doctors, Economists, Health experts, Journalists and progressive-minded Developers, on many local environmental issues. I have also met hundreds of people who are genuinely concerned about the future.
Scientists and concerned citizens realize that the earth is finite and that we depend upon our natural world to sustain our very existence. Environmentalists are not “against everything”, but rather support responsible resource development that does not leave a legacy of pollution and destruction that also compromises the health and well-being of future generations. Sustainability recognizes the need for economic development, but not at all cost. What is missing is the true cost accounting of development because it ignores the environmental impacts that result. Environmentalists, however, have a long-term view for the planet not a short-term, selfish attitude that promotes profit over environment and safety.
Environmentalists have been working and planning for a better future but are thwarted by ignorant politicians and government policies that do nothing to advance long-term strategies for reducing our ecological footprint. And, I am sad to say, Canada is a laggard not a leader. Our current Conservative Government has an agenda against environmentalists or any environmental issue that impedes their development policies or exposes their lack of understanding of the issues. Our Conservative MPs still consider anyone who dares question the development of the oil sands or the pipelines to be an “environmental radical”. They have gagged federal scientists, gutted environmental legislation, refuse to act on their own Species at Risk Legislation, pour billions into the oil sands and are a world embarrassment on climate change policies. Our Provincial Liberal Government is not far behind either.
Some people are so ignorant they have resorted to childish, immature stunts to show, in a feeble-minded way, that they are not environmentalists and have gone to great lengths and expense to show it. In the following link you will see a situation that exemplifies the stupidity of an anti-environment mind-set that is also present in our governments and some corporate cultures as well, it is just not as blatant. Check this out…(rolling coal).
The tables have turned. Those that do not support environmental causes are now seen as the ones who are out of touch, we just don’t have a word to describe them yet (although I can think of several). The environmentalists are the watchdogs and the numbers of concerned citizens are growing. Industry and governments don’t like it because they are finally being exposed and openly challenged to do better.
Environmentalists are working to correct the destruction of the natural world, species loss and extinction, declining biodiversity, climate change, pollution, ocean acidification, world poverty, greed, and realize that economics and ecology are linked and should have equal weight in our decisions.
In my experience, most people are genuinely concerned and care about all of these things.
If you are not an environmentalist, then what are you?