A Reevaluation: Does Environmentalism Necessarily Mean Radicalism?

What does the average citizen think of when they hear the term environmentalist?

Answer: a tree-hugging, bulldozer-sabotaging, disobedient hippie, who hates modernization and technological innovation. However, while these connotations may apply to some (very few) environmentalists, I assure you that this is a completely skewed and absurd definition.

Nevertheless, environmentalists have understandably earned this bad reputation over years as a result of their ever-increasing radical approaches. In cahoots with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they have repeatedly blocked legislation that would have created jobs and improved the economy. Although I consider myself environmentally-friendly, I shy away from terming myself an “environmentalist” due to all of the negative connotations that come along with the label.

However, a point of clarification needs to be made with regards to the term. Here is Britannica Encyclopedia’s definition ofenvironmentalism:

Environmentalism is a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities; through the adoption of forms of political, economic, and social organization that are thought to be necessary for, or at least conducive to, the benign treatment of the environment by humans; and through a reassessment of humanity’s relationship with nature. In various ways, environmentalism claims that living things other than humans, and the natural environment as a whole, are deserving of consideration in reasoning about the morality of political, economic, and social policies.

Often times, environmentalists tend to focus on one issue at a time, such as climate change or conservation or pollution. As a result of this myopic perspective and a manipulation of the above definition, environmentalists solely intend to limit human interaction with the environment. Thus, they have earned their title as unreasonable and radical. However, if environmentalists want to actually take effective action, they need to reevaluate their objectives and start working with human interaction in the environment, “[reassessing] humanity’s relationship with nature.” Additionally, they need to have an agenda broader than simply one target issue.

Thus, if environmentalists choose to operate within the bright green framework, which encourages technological innovation and economic growth, they will be more effective in their wider range of feats. Furthermore, by aligning themselves more closely to the definition of environmentalism and avoiding radical, perverted interpretations, they will also garner a more favorable reputation.

Tanner Davis is a research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Comments (4)

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  1. Environmental Steve says:

    “…a tree-hugging, bulldozer-sabotaging, disobedient hippie, who hates modernization and technological innovation.”

    Hey man, your generalizations are whack. I snapchat my support of the Keystone XL pipeline and support free market and greener alternatives. I’m all for saving the whales together, but I reject the label your projecting on environmentalists like myself.

    • Tanner says:

      Exactly! This description is what I am trying to help environmentalists overcome. Additionally, that description is not my own, rather that of the general public. I, like you, reject that label. Please read the sentence that follows…”However, while these connotations may apply to some (very few) environmentalists, I assure you that this is a completely skewed and absurd definition“…and the rest of the post to wholly understand my intentions.

  2. Energy Sense says:

    I try to start with the KISS formula, Keep it Stupid Simple when discussing Environmental programs, energy efficiency, sustainability, green, renewables, etc.
    I start with waste; reducing waste of any sort contributes to all facets of the environment. And to keep it simple, waste is wasteful. Energy Efficiency and/or Conservation has proven to be the least cost resource and should be considered first and foremost. In 1985 WA established the Least Cost perspective and put Conservation first then quickly forgot where it came from for political reasons when it established its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, RPS, in 2006.
    The RPS had two primary requirements. The first was to require qualified utilities to “pursue all available conservation that is cost-effective, reliable, and feasible,” as well as the more common RPS requirement of producing a set percentage of energy from eligible renewable sources. “Qualifying utilities” — in the case of the Washington state RPS — refers to electric utilities that serve more than 25,000 Washington customers, which would be required to produce 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The impact is yet to be felt on increase in rates and loss of jobs, but it will be substantial. There have been numerous studies which are all estimates. If you are reading this you know rates are on the increase, Seattle for example is experiencing 5-8% a year increases.
    The environment, well I think everyone wants to preserve the environment, even the money grabbing oil companies, however, if you aren’t all in green the “greenies”, they reject your perspective. What is interesting is the greenies have a number of ideas with little thought to other dimensions to the issues when promoting the “all in” or “all out”, philosophy. In fact over the years of working in the field it matters not to them! It their agenda or the highway!
    Renewables are my favorite. The cost, availability and reliability are issues that the greenies choose to ignore. Building higher cost non-firm renewable energy to power inefficient processes and systems makes as much sense as a screen door in a submarine.
    When Washington State established its RPS, it took years to get the greenies to accept the concept of reducing waste first through energy efficiency improvement measures then look to new resources. And for the politicians, Renewables make for better sound bites; very few are talking savings vs. spending. A realistic approach would be to include Renewable energy in the mix but not the sole source. This still is a non-starter for the greenies and now with Inslee, WA state’s self-proclaimed energy expert at the helm with his “crap and trade” once again WA has lost its direction. This inept approach will re-invigorate the market manipulators of the energy crisis days, the “Enron alikes” are still around. Their market manipulation will result in even higher energy prices, with “no” discernible benefit to the environment. It failed in Europe and it will fail here.
    So when I think of environmentalists, I think if you agree with their “all in philosophy” you get to play in the sand box, if you disagree with any part, you are all out!

    • Tanner says:

      Energy Sense, thank you very much for your comment. I think that you touched on something important that I failed to mention in my post. The “all in philosophy” that you mention is another reason why many laypeople consider environmentalists to be quite radical! If they were easier to negotiate and compromise with, these “hardcore” environmentalists might have a better reputation in the public’s eye.

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