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environmentalism , 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.
For additional discussion of ethical issues related to the natural environment, see environmental ethics . For discussion of environmental statutes and regulations, including international conventions, see environmental law .
Environmental thought and the various branches of the environmental movement are often classified into two intellectual camps: those that are considered anthropocentric, or “human-centred,” in orientation and those considered biocentric, or “life-centred.” This division has been described in other terminology as “shallow” ecology versus “deep” ecology and as “technocentrism” versus “ecocentrism.” Anthropocentric approaches focus mainly on the negative effects that environmental degradation has on human beings and their interests, including their interests in health , recreation, and quality of life . It is often characterized by a mechanistic approach to nonhuman nature in which individual creatures and species have only an instrumental value for humans. The defining feature of anthropocentrism is that it considers the moral obligations humans have to the environment to derive from obligations that humans have to each other—and, less crucially, to future generations of humans—rather than from any obligation to other living things or to the environment as a whole. Human obligations to the environment are thus indirect.
Critics of anthropocentrism have charged that it amounts to a form of human “ chauvinism .” They argue that anthropocentric approaches presuppose the historically Western view of nature as merely a resource to be managed or exploited for human purposes—a view that they claim is responsible for centuries of environmental destruction. In contrast to anthropocentrism, biocentrism claims that nature has an intrinsic moral worth that does not depend on its usefulness to human beings, and it is this intrinsic worth that gives rise directly to obligations to the environment. Humans are therefore morally bound to protect the environment, as well as individual creatures and species, for their own sake. In this sense, biocentrics view human beings and other elements of the natural environment, both living and often nonliving, as members of a single moral and ecological community .
By the 1960s and ’70s, as scientific knowledge of the causes and consequences of environmental degradation was becoming more extensive and sophisticated, there was increasing concern among some scientists, intellectuals , and activists about Earth ’s ability to absorb the detritus of human economic activity and, indeed, to sustain human life. This concern contributed to the growth of grassroots environmental activism in a number of countries, the establishment of new environmental nongovernmental organizations, and the formation of environmental (“green”) political parties in a number of Western democracies . As political leaders gradually came to appreciate the seriousness of environmental problems, governments entered into negotiations in the early 1970s that led to the adoption of a growing number of international environmental agreements.
The division between anthropocentric and biocentric approaches played a central role in the development of environmental thought in the late 20th century. Whereas some earlier schools, such as apocalyptic (survivalist) environmentalism and emancipatory environmentalism—as well as its offshoot, human-welfare ecology —were animated primarily by a concern for human well-being, later movements, including social ecology, deep ecology , the animal-rights and animal-liberation movements, and ecofeminism , were centrally concerned with the moral worth of nonhuman nature.
Anthropocentric schools of thought
The vision of the environmental movement of the 1960s and early ’70s was generally pessimistic, reflecting a pervasive sense of “civilization malaise” and a conviction that Earth’s long-term prospects were bleak. Works such as Rachel Carson ’s Silent Spring (1962), Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968), Paul Ehrlich ’s The Population Bomb (1968), Donella H. Meadows’ The Limits to Growth (1972), and Edward Goldsmith’s Blueprint for Survival (1972) suggested that the planetary ecosystem was reaching the limits of what it could sustain. This so-called apocalyptic, or survivalist, literature encouraged reluctant calls from some environmentalists for increasing the powers of centralized governments over human activities deemed environmentally harmful, a viewpoint expressed most vividly in Robert Heilbroner’s An Inquiry into the Human Prospect (1974), which argued that human survival ultimately required the sacrifice of human freedom. Counterarguments, such as those presented in Julian Simon and Herman Kahn ’s The Resourceful Earth (1984), emphasized humanity’s ability to find or to invent substitutes for resources that were scarce and in danger of being exhausted.
Beginning in the 1970s, many environmentalists attempted to develop strategies for limiting environmental degradation through recycling , the use of alternative energy technologies , the decentralization and democratization of economic and social planning, and, for some, a reorganization of major industrial sectors, including the agriculture and energy industries. In contrast to apocalyptic environmentalism, so-called “emancipatory” environmentalism took a more positive and practical approach, one aspect of which was the effort to promote an ecological consciousness and an ethic of “stewardship” of the environment. One form of emancipatory environmentalism, human-welfare ecology—which aims to enhance human life by creating a safe and clean environment—was part of a broader concern with distributive justice and reflected the tendency, later characterized as “postmaterialist,” of citizens in advanced industrial societies to place more importance on “quality-of-life” issues than on traditional economic concerns.
Emancipatory environmentalism also was distinguished for some of its advocates by an emphasis on developing small-scale systems of economic production that would be more closely integrated with the natural processes of surrounding ecosystems. This more environmentally holistic approach to economic planning was promoted in work by the American ecologist Barry Commoner and by the German economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher . In contrast to earlier thinkers who had downplayed the interconnectedness of natural systems, Commoner and Schumacher emphasized productive processes that worked with nature, not against it, encouraged the use of organic and renewable resources rather than synthetic products (e.g., plastics and chemical fertilizers ), and advocated renewable and small-scale energy resources (e.g., wind and solar power) and government policies that supported effective public transportation and energy efficiency .
The emancipatory approach was evoked through the 1990s in the popular slogan, “Think globally, act locally.” Its small-scale, decentralized planning and production has been criticized, however, as unrealistic in highly urbanized and industrialized societies. ( See also urban planning ; economic planning .)
Environmental movement essay.
The environmental movement is a social movement dedicated to the management, protection, and restoration of the natural environment. Also referred to as the conservation movement, or more recently, the green movement, it is one of the more successful social movements of the 20th century, for it secured widespread public support and influenced governments to establish agencies and pass legislation consistent with the goals of the movement.
Although the movement is rooted in many ideas from the conservationist movement of the early 20th century, what can be called the modern environmental movement did not begin until the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time the movement benefited from the increased political mobilization and cultural climate that accompanied the civil rights and anti-war movements. Also helping to launch the environmental movement was new scientific evidence increasingly indicating that human activity was harming the natural environment. Environmentalists pointed to river fires, gas station lines, and factory soot as examples of avoidable human behavior that was damaging to the environment.
Numerous highly publicized disasters occurred during the 1970s and 1980s that further increased public awareness. Two of these events—the near meltdown at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, in 1979 and the explosion at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986— involved mishaps with nuclear energy. Both events received considerable media and public attention, resulting in a decline in public support for nuclear energy. In 1989, an oil tanker, the Exxon Valdez, hit a reef off the coast of Alaska, resulting in leakage of an estimated 11 million gallons of oil into the sea, one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history. The images of sea animals covered in oil further outraged the public and produced increasing support for the environmental movement into the 1990s.
Government agencies were established and legislation was passed near the beginning of the environmental movement, and these agencies and laws remain in effect today. In 1969 came the National Environmental Policy Act and establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency as a federal agency devoted to protecting and preserving the environment. In 1973, the Endangered Species Act sought to save species who were threatened by environmental destruction.
Various organizations promoting environmental-ism have also had a profound impact. Two of the first organizations, the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society, have been promoting environmental issues for more than a century. Sporadic grassroots protests, referred to as Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) movements, reflect local concerns of the environmental movement by discouraging the establishment of waste sites and trash incinerators in local communities. Earth Day—first held on April 22, 1970— continues to serve as a day encouraging Americans to be particularly cognizant of environmental issues.
Recently, the environmental movement began focusing on such macro-level concerns as global warming, ozone depletion, and rain forest loss. In 2005, an agreement among more than 160 countries, known as the Kyoto Protocol, went into effect. Countries ratifying this protocol agreed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases considered harmful to the environment. The United States has not ratified this protocol despite being the world’s most significant producer of greenhouse gases.
Demographically, the environmental movement is primarily a middle-class movement. Many attribute the affluent nature of this movement to the greater amount of time devoted to recreation by the middle class and the tendency for the middle class to focus on aesthetics. A recent trend in the movement, however, has been an emphasis on environmental justice, which emphasizes racial and class disparities in the level of harm caused by pollution and waste. Those participating in the movement tend to be younger in age than participants in most other social movements. Despite the rural nature of the early conservationist movement, those participating in the environmental movement are more likely to reside in urban areas.
Although the environmental movement receives a great deal of public support, some groups resist the movement. Businesses with economic incentives to engage in what many consider to be environmentally harmful practices oppose the movement, typically stating that claims made by environmentalists are exaggerated or mythical. Recently, however, businesses have begun to alter their practices and images to act and appear more environmentally friendly. As a result, the culprit has become the general public, and emphasis has shifted to individual responsibility for environmental concerns.
- Dryzek, John S. 2005. The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Dunlap, Riley E. and Angela G. Mertig. 1992. American Environmentalism: The U.S. Environmental Movement, 1970-1990. New York: Taylor & Francis.
- Hannigan, John A. 2006. Environmental Sociology: A Social Constructionist Perspective. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.
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Essay On Environmental Movement
The environmental movement can be defined as a newly emerging disciple brought on by widespread fear of the weakening environment. Advocating for sustainable management of resources and the protection of the environment through changes in individual/global behavior and public policy or law. It was not until the mid 1960s that environmental movement became prevalent in society. Even then it was still a relatively small substructure. By that time, the Great lakes were becoming damaged; smog was chocking cities; and the growing worry about nuclear energy, were all factors contributing to a widespread concern about the environmental issues developing in our world (Smallman and brown). The Amazon Rain Forest is tens of millions of years old and home to a vast number of species. Making it one of the most powerful symbols of the environmental movement. I say that mainly because it presents the issue of deforestation and species loss. When serious changes occur in the forest, it has been linked to planetary climate change. The Amazon became an international environmentalist issue in the 1980s as people began to realize that if deforestation rates continued, our ecosystem could be destroyed. (Smallman and Brown) The destruction of our ecosystem, deforestation, along with hunting, and pollution is leading to extinction of many species around the world. Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin depicted the experience of two scientists who discovered a ridge in western Ecuador called “Centinela”. They described the environment as, “ as rich as it was vulnerable”(Leakey and Lewin 1996). The environment was filled with ninety unknown species, and was an extremely diverse habitat that was isolated and developed a unique flora. Within eight years o... ... middle of paper ... ... The amount of chlorine the CFCs were releasing created potholes in the ozone layer, which can cause tremendous damage to us. It was at that time, 1987, despite significant opposition from industries, when the nations enforced the Montreal Protocol, which eliminates CFCs. Similar efforts will be needed to stop the increase of Green house gases also know as Global Warming. Global warming is just harder to address because of our demographic reality. EPA and other global organizations have put more global efforts in place. Acts like the Clean Air Act, which was established in 1963 to encourage programs to prevent and control air pollution (Air). The National Environmental Policy Act, which was established in 1970 and required agencies to prepare “environmental impact quotas”. The list goes on. In all, the environmental issues are the ultimate international problem.
In this essay, the author
- Defines the environmental movement as a newly emerging disciple brought on by widespread fear of the weakening environment.
- Explains that the amazon rain forest is tens of millions of years old and home to a vast number of species.
- Explains that the destruction of our ecosystem, deforestation, along with hunting, and pollution is leading to extinction of many species around the world.
- Argues that the environmental movement has created a narrative of constant environmental decline, even though there has been significant progress.
- Explains that there were key protectionists involved in the movement, including john muir, gifford pinchot, henry david thoreau, and george perkins marsh.
- Explains that politics became involved in the fight for a more sustainable environment and created earth day in 1969.
- Explains that the environmental movement was not only happening in the united states, but also at a global level, leading to the nations getting involved.
- Explains that environmentalists fear that without radical change and global action towards sustainability the earth will soon become inhospitable.
- Explains that sustainability is characterized by three main principles and several major components. the social aspect is about ensuring that all people are treated fairly and live in fair conditions.
- Explains that sustainability involves looking at human activities and practices and deciding if they are sustainable for the continuation of life on earth.
- Opines that humans are obliged to enact collective solutions to environmental problems. humans are using up all of earth's natural resources to provide for an ever-growing global population.
- Explains that habitat destruction is the most pervasive and pernicious human impact on other species, and it is up to humans to acknowledge that current human activities are destroying the earth.
- Explains that environmental awareness in america didn't get the public's support until after the industrial revolution with the help of president theodore roosevelt.
- Explains that environmental awareness had reached its peak in american history with president theodore roosevelt. thoreau's walden became an influential piece for environmentalists years to come.
- Analyzes how environmentalist groups like the sierra club, the boone and crockett club and the audubon society were formed in the 18th century.
- Analyzes how theodore roosevelt's presidency has made a tremendous impact on the protection of american environment through several acts and proclamations.
- Explains that roosevelt's environmentalist and conservation efforts extended into public awareness and education. roosevelt promoted conservation and the wise use of natural resources more than any chief executive in american history.
- Explains that after president theodore roosevelt left office in 1909, the environmental movement continued but slowed its pace. it chugged along with major happenings like the national park service being created in 1916.
- Opines that the world needs to preserve the rainforests because without them our ecosystem will suffer.
- Explains that the rainforest provides many valuable resources as well as being a key in the water cycle.
- Opines that the deforestation of rainforests sets off chain reactions around the world’s ecosystem that affect more than just the rainforest.
- Explains that the amazon rainforests are the world's oldest ecosystems dating back to almost 100 million years.
- Explains that the rainforests provide the earth with oxygen, clean air, and control the levels of carbon dioxide in the air.
- Explains that the rainforests contain more than half of the plant and animal species in the world.
- Explains that the amazon river basin is home to many species of animals, insects, plants, and trees. the amazon is decreasing in size every day due to the ongoing deforestation of the land.
- Explains that when deforestation continues, the environment in the world becomes more and more impacted by greenhouse gases.
- Explains that deforestation affects the rainforest's water cycle, evapotranspiration, transpiration, and rainfall.
- Explains that in the amazon rainforest, there are many species from plants to animals. deforestation affects the biodiversity of the area.
- Explains that the amazon rainforest is beautiful and plays an important role in life. if deforestation continues, the world will face many crucial impacts.
- Cites amazon as a source for information on evapotranspiration and deforestation.
- Explains that greenhouse gases, climate change, and energy are discussed in the eia's report on amazon deforestation and climate change.
- Summarizes the usgs' summary of the water cycle, which is available at http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercyclesummary.html.
- Explains that outsiders commit land thievery against innocent locals through corruption, strong-arm tactics, and fraudulent titles. violence is also frequent in the amazon.
- Opines that if we don't stop the deforestation of the amazon, the environment will be destroyed.
- Opines that humans must stop cutting down the amazon rainforest because it leads to many plants and animals being harmed and losing their homes.
- Opines that if we don't stop the destruction of the amazon rainforest, it will do more bad than good for humans.
- Argues that the mission statement of the nature conservancy captures the true essence of environmentalism.
- Analyzes paul taylor's respect for nature argument to defend the natural conservancy organization mission statement.
- Explains that nature conservancy's main goal is to sustain the echo system as long as possible and knowing that each entity carries inherent worth motivates them to protect each and every being.
- Argues that the echo-feminism ideology would not capture the true essence of environmentalism. the logic of domination would reject the notion of hierarchy of interest by significant features.
- Opines that natural conservancy's values capture the true essence of environmentalism. wild living things deserve concern and consideration by all moral agents because they are members of the community of life.
- Explains that the natural conservancy organization recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings while prioritizing the importance of protecting nature for the earth community.
- Explains that the amazon rainforest in south america is the largest and most bio-diverse rainforest in the world.
- Explains the conversion of the tropical forest into cropland and pasture in ecuador, before their secession from spain.
- Explains that warmer temperatures and less rainfall have produced droughts of historic proportions in the amazon.
- Explains that the world wildlife foundation is creating plans to address every problem contributing to the destruction of the amazon.
- Explains that wwf collaborates with governments to construct and manage protected forest conservations through the amazon region protected areas program. the first major milestone was the creation of tumucumaque mountains national park
- Analyzes how south american countries promote deforestation with the belief that it will stimulate their economy and allow them to compete with economic powers like china and the us.
- Explains that tropical deforestation is inefficient, but why does it continue? global warming, species extinction and other environmental impacts are considered externalities. major reform needs to occur to remove corrupt individuals who allow the plunder of the rainforest from power.
- Analyzes how south america can china-ify its economy without destroying the amazon.
- Explains that indigenous groups have been living in the amazon for thousands of years, slowly accumulating knowledge of the rainforest and methods to subsist from it.
- Explains that tropical forests have already given us medical advances, but only one percent of them have been thoroughly examined for their medical potentials.
- Summarizes southgate, douglas dewitt, and morris d. whitaker's economic progress and the environment: one developing country’s policy crisis.
- Explains the importance of rainforest deforestation and how it affects the lives of humans.
- Explains that the diversity of wildlife found in the rainforests is incomparable to any other environment on earth.
- Explains that the periwinkle contains the basis of a special drug called vincristine, which has saved thousands of children with leukemia since its discovery.
- Opines that deforestation is a short-term solution for cash-strapped economies, but more than likely will cause large-scale complications later on.
- Opines that we can prevent rainforest deforestation from afar by conducting fundraisers, using less paper, and using tree-free paper.
- Cites "facts on the rainforest." welcome to space radiation lab, caltech. web. 15 sept. 2011.
- States that president getulio vargas established different government programs to take care of the amazon rainforest.
- Analyzes how brazil launches ambitious plan to save the rainforest. cnn interactive. 29 april 1998.
- Explains why the amazon is important. bbc radio world service.
- Explains that the amazon rainforest is located south from the equator and is the largest reservoir of fresh water in the world.
- Explains that gdp is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country. there are two ways to measure gdp, the expenditure approach and the income approach.
- Explains that the unemployment rate is the percentage of people in the labor force who are unemployed.
- Explains that the consumer confidence survey is based on representative sample of 5,000 u.s households and shows how consumers feel about spending their money in the economy.
- Explains that personal income-second quarter: 6.4%, disposable income: 3.1%, personal consumption: 4.7%, imports: imports that the rest of the world make and are bought by the u.s.
- Analyzes how personal consumption expenditures contributed to the increase in gpd and the growth of gdp.
- Explains that an increase in employment will produce more income for people. hurricanes caused many people to lose jobs and become unemployed. personal income increased to 61.76 billion.
- Analyzes the decline in consumer confidence, which has dropped 15 points since july. exports and imports both rose in the month of november.
- Explains that agricultural prices were up.4 % in the third quarter, compared to the previous 12 months.
- Explains that consumer confidence is still low despite the increase in personal income and decrease in savings. the high gas prices and war in iraq have triggered this decrease.
- Explains that the economy revolves around many economic indicators, which all make up the flow that it runs on.
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How the largest environmental movement in history was born
Ageing protesters still speak of the first Earth Day with reverence. On 22 April 1970, 20 million people took to the streets across the United States to protest environmental destruction. The nation had recently witnessed the devastating impacts of the Santa Barbara oil spill and seen the first photographs of the Earth taken by astronauts. The beauty of that blue marble pictured from space contrasted bleakly with the lamentable state of the Earth that they knew from the ground.
The campaign was led by a senator from Wisconsin called Gaylord Nelson, and organised from a temporary office in Washington DC staffed by college students, many already veterans of protest campaigns of the 1960s, including the civil rights movement. But anyone was free to arrange their own festivities. “That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day,” wrote Nelson more than three decades later in his book Beyond Earth Day. “It organised itself.”
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It may have been the start of the modern environmental movement, but it was not the origin of environmentalism. Scholars have argued that the tenets of environmentalism are found into the Koran , which was written in the 7th Century. And throughout the 20th Century , countless protesters have been killed trying to protect natural environments and animals, with numbers of killings rising rapidly in recent decades .
Fifty years on from the first Earth Day in 1970, pictured here, much of the world is wearing masks for a different reason - and the protest has moved online (Credit: Getty Images)
While Earth Day was far from the first environment action, what made the movement different was its mass scale and coherence. The first Earth Day events took place at tens of thousands of locations across the US. Even a stretch of New York’s Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic. Congress was adjourned, as so many politicians were participating in the day’s events. Earth Day created, for the first time, an environmental movement, as local and specific concerns around clean air, water and pesticides coalesced into a broad awareness of the crisis facing the planet as a whole.
It took this basket of issues that we now call "the environment" and elevated them spectacularly in the public consciousness – Denis Hayes
The event was larger many times over than its organisers had anticipated. “Our aspirations were to have an event that resembled some of the anti-war rallies and civil rights rallies. But instead of having them in one or five communities, we looked at it in many cities across the country,” says Denis Hayes, who organised the original Earth Day.
“By the time it finally came around, it was in virtually every town, every village, in the United States. It took this basket of issues that we now call 'the environment' and elevated them spectacularly in the public consciousness.”
A bumpy road
The more cinematic narrative of Earth Day has it that the movement had politicians in the US jumping over themselves to implement pro-environment legislation. But in fact, the clamour actually quietened down following the festivities. The following week, America invaded Cambodia and the Ohio National Guard shot dead four unarmed college students at a protest at Kent State University, leading to a renewal of anti-war sentiment. But still, something had been stirred, and the Earth Day organisers were not easily put off. In late summer, they waged a campaign against 12 members of Congress with poor environmental records, eventually booting seven of them out of office.
Earth Day brought environmentalism to the forefront of political discourse in the United States, but it was the start of a long and bumpy road (Credit: Getty Images)
“That’s when Congress began taking it seriously,” recalls Hayes. Suddenly, the environment was a vote-winning – or, in this case, a vote-losing – issue. In December 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency, and over the next decade it passed a raft of legislation aimed at cleaning up the nation’s air, water and other natural resources. The status quo – that of a nation where rivers caught fire and bird numbers were decimated by pesticides – was becoming increasingly unacceptable to many American voters.
This year, the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day is going to be very different. With the global pandemic changing the way we live across the world, the planned events have been scaled back to digital protest. It will be a huge change for an event that has grown in the schools and communities of more than 190 countries.
This is the next in a long line of transformations; the Earth Day of recent years has been a very different beast to its first iteration in 1970. In the past five decades, the movement has shifted to account for societal changes, technical advances and emerging environmental challenges, of which the most notable is, of course, climate change. Barely on the agenda in the 1970s, the consistent rise in global temperatures is now environmentalists’ overriding concern.
The greenwash question
Earth Day has always faced criticisms, and their nature has shifted over the years too. In his book, Gaylord Nelson comments wryly on the dogged accusations that Earth Day was actually established to honour the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Russian communist leader, Vladimir Lenin. Today, the movement faces regular suggestions that it has lost its original revolutionary fervour, instead prioritising token gestures and a focus on individual action in place of political upheaval.
The potential for greenwash is a problem with which Earth Day organisers have long grappled
“The first Earth Day was unrepeatable. It was unprecedented,” says Adam Rome, a historian of the environmental movement at the University at Buffalo and the author of the book The Genius of Earth Day. Back then, the organisers were focused on a radical transformation of society, he says, but that attitude shifted around the 1990s. “In most places, in most years, it’s either been kind of a trade show, where you can see the latest green goods; or, for kids, it’s a day to plant trees or collect litter. Earth Day itself is not nearly as much about collective action to deal with huge problems as it was in 1970.”
The potential for greenwash is a problem with which Earth Day organisers have long grappled. While the movement is spearheaded by the Earth Day Network, companies and brands regularly use the annual celebration as a way to promote their “green” products and services. “I worry about it, but we’re incredibly activist about trying to tamp it down. That’s our behind-the-scenes game every single year,” says Kathleen Rogers, a former lawyer who now leads the Earth Day Network. “But they keep trying to do it. That’s just the name of the game.”
Earth Day has adapted to its surroundings in many countries, from dolphin-themed activities in Hawaii to thorough beach-cleans in Mumbai (Credit: Getty Images)
Nelson, who died in 2005, adopted a pragmatic attitude towards any corporate co-opting of the Earth Day brand. He recognised that all the world’s problems cannot be resolved by a celebration that takes place once a year, and that there was a need to engage with business and industry. “Whether a corporation wants to appear green for public recognition, or for perfectly honest reasons, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, we’re gaining,” he wrote in Beyond Earth Day.
Earth Day’s leaders see diversification, away from the white middle-class stereotype of environmental activism, as one of the main achievements of the campaign
This flexibility has perhaps been the key to Earth Day’s persistence through its first 50 years. While the official Earth Day Network runs various official initiatives each year, the day’s meaning is reinterpreted differently, hundreds of times over, by the individual events organised by schools, faith groups, cinemas and artists.
This has helped the movement morph itself to fit local social norms and new political regimes – Hawaii, for instance, is hosting a dolphin-themed event this year, while the African network has highlighted the destruction of the Congo Rainforest. Since its American beginnings, Earth Day has reached countries on all continents, including Iran, Nigeria, Argentina and Australia.
Initially, I was not a big fan, because it seemed to infantilise the problem. I just saw in schools they would put up signs about saving the trees – Jamie Margolin
Earth Day’s leaders see diversification, away from the white middle-class stereotype of environmental activism, as one of the main achievements of the campaign. “In the Middle East and Africa, the environment is not a priority,” says Rusul Al Shihab, who began campaigning as a volunteer after arriving in the US in 2009 as a refugee from Iraq, and is now director of Earth Day 2020 for the Middle East. “Ironically, the whole region is affected by climate change. We see floods, we see rain, we see temperature rising.”
When Earth Day began in 1970, there was no other protest like it. Today, it is just one branch in an enormous ecosystem of environmental movements, many of which are louder, more political and youth-driven. Jamie Margolin, who founded the youth movement Zero Hour from her home in Seattle, says that she started to appreciate Earth Day when she learned about its revolutionary roots, and now believes that it is a useful tool in bringing people together to tackle environmental problems, whatever their backgrounds.
Earth Day may have been surpassed in its influence by youth movements led by activists such as Jamie Margolin (right), pictured with Greta Thunberg (Credit: Getty Images)
“Initially, I was not a big fan, because it seemed to infantilise the problem. I didn’t know the history; I just saw in schools they would put up signs about saving the trees,” she says. “But different communities need different things when it comes to solving the climate crisis. If you have a holiday that allows each community to commemorate it in a way that best fits their needs, I think that’s a good thing.”
It is youth movements like Zero Hour, alongside the school strikes spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, that are leading the climate movement today. But it’s worth remembering that Earth Day, when it started 50 years ago, was also led by young people: fiery students who had witnessed the decline of the natural world and felt as impassioned to solve it as many feel about climate change today.
So the story has come full circle. When Margolin set up Zero Hour, she was guided by insights from another local Seattleite: the original Earth Day organiser, Denis Hayes, himself. While the movement may not be the radical force it once was, it was arguably the seed for the modern ecosystem of environmentalism that is alive today.
The emissions from travel it took to report this story were, unsurprisingly, 0kg CO2: the writer interviewed sources remotely from the safety of lockdown. The digital emissions from this story are an estimated 1.2g to 3.6g CO2 per page view. Find out more about how we calculated this figure here .
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The Evolution of the Environmental Crisis
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Today’s environment movement began between the nineteen-sixties and the nineteen seventies in the United States. The early form of the movement stemmed from a couple well known environmental disasters and issues. Over the past five decades, environmentalism has become a multifaceted movement. It is an issue that passes through politics on a local, state, and federal level, influences education, health, the media, along with many other things. As people in power and big corporations continue to make decisions based on their want for money, they begin to disregard the harmful effects they are having on human life and the environment we live in, this is why the environmental movement is still relevant today and growing environmental concerns have become fixed in the awareness of the American population.
The History of the Environmental Movement in the United States
The modern-day environmental movement in the United States stems from multiple publicised events through the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies, which include oil spills on the coastlines of California, hydrogen bomb testing on Bikini Atoll, and the growing usage of chemicals, like insecticides and many others.
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In the nineteen-sixties the pollution of the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie, called for the rise of Environmentalism in the United States, it was publicised throughout the media as the “Lake Erie Fire” and greatly assisted in environmental consciousness throughout the American Population. Debris on the Cuyahoga River was on fire, leading to severe property damage because of how polluted Lake Erie and waterways nearby were. This event was the most perfect representation of environmental destruction at the time that Randy Newman wrote the song “Burn on” based off of its inspiration and Dr.
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Suess’ environmental awareness book, The Lorax , incorporates the name “Lake Erie” into it at one point.
In the nineteen-sixties and the nineteen-seventies, the environmental movement was mainly focused on preservation. This growing concern for preservation of forests, lakes, rivers, and so on, in the United States came about as a result of the lake fires, like the “Lake Erie Fire,” oil spills, and the use of insecticides. Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” sheds light on the result of the use of insecticides and a pesticide called DDT, Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, has on animals, specifically the bird population. One bird species that was impacted by humans’ use of the chemical DDT was the bald eagle; it reduced this species’ population and thinned the bird’s egg shell lines. The bald eagles recognized as an endangered species attracted the media, mainly because it’s the nation’s bird, resulting in the creation and implementation of laws such as the Endangered Species Act.
The effect environmental destruction has on the human race and it’s population also became a worry, ensuring that environmentalism will be a topic that must be addressed in the democratic agenda throughout Kennedy and Johnson’s administration. Because of the growing consciousness of what environmental damage can have on our health and it’s dangers, the establishment of many laws were put into place, but not until President Richard Nixon took office in nineteen-sixty nine. Democrats sponsored the National Environmental Policy Act of Nineteen-Sixty Nine, “which required an environmental impact assessment before approval of government and corporate development projects and allowed citizen activists and environmental groups to file lawsuits against prominent polluters.” Nixon was hesitant when signing this legislation and promised to start a nationwide campaign with the goal of protecting the environment. But, today many environmental activists tend to criticize Richard Nixon for unsuccessfully acting on what he had said with strong enforcement against big corporations. “Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, EPA was established on December 2, 1970 to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.” The Clean Air Act of Nineteen-Seventy gave the Environmental Protection Agency the responsibility of ensuring we have good air quality to maintain the public welfare and health. The Clean Act of Nineteen-Seventy Two served to regulate the quality of our water and the pollution that is dispersed into our waters.
Anti-Vietnam and New Left Movements were alongside the Environmental Movements on college campuses. The rising environmental activism in the nineteen-sixties influenced the making of the first Earth Day in nineteen-seventy and the teach-ins on the environment that occured in schools all around the nation.
The Modern-Day Environmental Movement
Today, the Environmental Movement is no longer about just preserving our environment, but it is more focused on climate change and greatly takes into account class, race, and gender. When the first Earth Day occurred on April Twenty-Second, Nineteen-Seventy, the movement was mainly focused on pollution in the United States, now we have shifted the focus to climate change and although climate change affects us all, it affects others more severely specifically low-income people of color. According to National Geographic, climate change can be defined as “a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th century to present.” The cause of climate change today is by human activity, a good example would be the burning of fossil fuels. Multiple UN scientists said that we have twelve years to form every aspect of the economy into one that will stop the climate crisis.
In hopes of slowing down climate change, climate activists are pushing to pass the Green New Deal, a ten year plan to fight the climate crisis. This was proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and asks the federal government to part away from fossil fuels and dangerous greenhouse emissions in the American economy, along with assuring new, well-paying jobs in clean energy industries. It also attempts to fixs issues in society, like racial injustice and economic inequality. It is important to keep in mind that if the Congress approves of the Green New Deal, it will not be put into place as a law. As written by Lisa Friedman in her article “What Is the Green New Deal? A Climate Proposal, Explained,” she writes “The resolution uses as its guide two major reports issued last year by the United Nations and by federal scientists who warned that if global temperatures continue to rise, the world is headed for more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts. The research shows that the United States economy could lose billions of dollars by the end of the century because of climate change.” According to the Green New Deal, we must meet net-zero emission by twenty-fifty worldwide, with the United States taking the lead in doing so. Republicans, which include President Donald Trump himself, Senator Tom Cotton, and Senator John Barrasso claimed that the Green New Deal will take away one’s “airplane rights,” force Americans to “ride around on high-speed light rail, supposedly powered by unicorn tears,” and livestock would be banned; All invalid statements that are not stated in the proposal. The document does ask the federal government to invest in policies and projects that can alter how we travel, eat, and architecture, but none of which is stated above, while also distancing away from rejecting certain technologies or sources of energy with hopes of gaining more support.
The Sunrise Movement is currently one of the largest and most well-known organizations throughout the nation that is using an army of young people to fight against climate change, pass the new deal, and give millions of jobs to the next generation. It began in the summer of 2017, when a small group of young climate activists joined forces with an interesting idea: creating a movement large enough to match the size of the threat that is the climate crisis. They spent almost a year studying contemporary social movements, and historical social movements which include but aren’t limited to the Civil Rights Movement, LGBTQ Movements, Anti-Vietnam War Movements in order to replicate our generations “Vietnam Era level of mobilization,” but they believe that is what is necessary. They built support from numerous people around the country and began to take action, facing politicians with progessive views on climate and receiving the support from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. This brought national attention and Sunrise Movement branches/hubs began to spread all throughout the nation. Shortly after, Mitch McConnell decided he wanted to rush the vote of the Green New Deal, so the Sunrise Movement planned an emergency action. Representatives of the movement flew to Washington D.C. and occupied his office to protest. Varshini Parkash says, they are “making this an issue a political priority” the federal government can’t avoid and the youth is a part of that.
My Contribution To End The Climate Crisis
Within the past six months, I have attempted to do what I can do in order to fight the climate crisis as an individual. It is because of the research I had done on the topic on my own, as well as my friend, and climate activist, John Paul Mejia’s input and influence. It wasn’t until then that I realized the severity of this issue and the importance of every individual to act on it as soon as possible. I grew deeply concerned with not only what would happen in my future, but also my family’s future, as well as our generation’s children. It was a wake-up call in my mind that made me aware of the fact that if we don’t act now, we may not have a planet to live on in a century from now.
There are multiple small changes you can make in your own lifestyle in order to act against this issue. To start off, I have minimized my use of plastic and when I do use it I recycle it properly. I have also attempted to reduce my carbon footprint, have attended multiple climate protests, and joined the Cleo Institute. Like stated on the website, “The CLEO Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization exclusively dedicated to climate change education, engagement, and advocacy in Florida,” based in Miami; Cleo is a great and easy way to get involved in the environmental movement in the United States.
One extremely easy thing I did and anyone can do is become informed. Although, this issue may seem obvious to some, to many others they may not have a clue and if they do, they most likely don’t understand how serious the climate crisis actually is. Try reducing your carbon footprint by traveling by walking, bike riding, using public transportation, and so on (transportation is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions around the world!). What I also like to do is shop smarter. I make sure that the companies I am contributing to support sustainability and are transparent as to where their products are sourced from. Lastly, you can vote for the Earth. By this I mean that you should vote for politicians in favor of the Green New Deal and address the issue. It is up to the youth to determine where we go in our journey of fighting the climate crisis.
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Essay, Pages 8 (1855 words) Views. 106. Today’s environment movement began between the nineteen-sixties and the nineteen seventies in the United States. The early form of the movement stemmed from a couple well known environmental disasters and issues. Over the past five decades, environmentalism has become a multifaceted movement.