|A buncha tree-huggers|
|Save the rainforests!|
|Watch that carbon footprint!|
“”Clean up the air 'n' treat the animals fair...
“”Gentlemen, why in heaven's name this haste? You have time enough. [...] Why sacrifice the present to the future, fancying that you will be happier when your fields teem with wealth and your cities with people? In Europe we have cities wealthier and more populous than yours, and we are not happy. You dream of your posterity, but your posterity will look back to yours as the golden age, and envy those who first burst into this silent, splendid nature, who first lifted up their axes upon these tall trees, and lined these waters with busy wharves. Why, then, seek to complete in a few decades what the other nations of the world took thousands of years...? [...] Why, in your hurry to subdue and utilize nature, squander her splendid gifts? [...] You have opportunities such as mankind has never had before...and may never have again.
|—James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce and British Ambassador to the United States from 1907 to 1913|
Environmentalism is the philosophy that the Earth is like a ship far out in the middle of the ocean, and if there's a fire we should make an effort to put it out on the grounds that we have nowhere else to go. Environmentalists are often called Greens. They are fundamentally opposed by the Grays who believe the Earth is like a front yard in the middle of New Hampshire where we can just let the grass grow up to hide/shade the sleeping dogs and leave a bunch of parted out cars laying around leaking oil and transmission fluid, and any effort spent trying to raise the planet's "curb appeal" is socialism and reminds them of when their mothers told them to clean up their rooms. Besides, Jesus is coming any minute now, to clean it all up for us anyway.
“”But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.
Several causes of the environmental movement are genuine:
- Mitigating global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; for example, by promoting mass transit, transitioning to renewable energy, and opposing further expansion of the use of fossil fuels.
- Promoting vegetarian and vegan diets as more environmentally friendly. Meat is 16 times more energy-intensive to produce and emits 24 times more greenhouse gases than plants. That said, human animals use other animals as factors of production for hundreds of other goods, so cutting back only on meat consumption may be more wasteful than environmentally beneficial. But if people didn't eat pigs they probably wouldn't be killed just for use in cosmetics, gelatin, etc.
- Reducing chemical pollution from manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.
- Protection of endangered species.
- Creation, expansion, and protection of wildlife sanctuaries to prevent local extinction (aka extirpation).
- Encouraging better industrial and municipal waste-management practices, which could include the production of biogas.
It is often difficult to accurately assess how one can best protect the environment. To understand how sustainable a specific product or process is with regards to environmentalism, researchers commonly deploy life-cycle assessments.
Environmentalism is a necessary response to a negative impact of human activities on nature, but it has occasionally been a realm in which much pseudoscience and woo has flourished unchecked. Science-based environmentalism, based on study of biology and ecology and the formulation of appropriate and effective public policy to curb and mitigate human impacts on same, can be contrasted with such woo as:
- Sunday school environmentalism, in which environmental concepts of limited scope are taken or used in the wrong way due to public misunderstanding. Recycling and donating to environmentalist groups are two actions that are debatable as far as impact on the environment, though they probably don't hurt.
- Opposition to genetic engineering, particularly of food crops and meat animals, on the grounds of health risks of DNA recombination (the method used to create them) or as-yet-unknown problems.[note 1]
- Gaian Theory, in which the planet itself is seen as a self-correcting living organism.
- A related notion, popularized in the 1970s by writers like Barry Commoner, is that ecosystems if left alone will seek a natural stasis. While no serious scientist believes this today (ecosystems are always changing and evolving, sometimes catastrophically), the idea persists among some environmentalists.
- Hard green extremists who see humanity or industrial civilization itself as the problem, and want to radically depopulate the planet and go back to an imagined idyllic "state of nature."
- Greenwashing, advertising tactics aimed at convincing consumers that if you buy this magical biodegradable plastic or specially formulated gasoline you are helping to "save the planet"; Clean coal is a prominent example.
- Doomsday scenarios, taking legitimate concern over things like overpopulation and peak oil to an unrealistic extreme, and making prophecies which are either premature or unnecessarily alarmist.
- New Age ideas like earth changes, or that returning to "earth"-based religions like neopaganism is necessary to save the planet.
- Other woo sold to consumers claiming they can conserve energy with it, such as automotive woo making unfounded claims to improve fuel efficiency
- "Earth woo" in general is popular, using symbolism to convey a sense of environmental consciousness. If something has the words "earth," "green," or "planet," or an image of the planet as viewed from space, it is assumed to be environmentally-friendly or part of "green" culture. Uses range from corporate greenwashing to popular books like the Whole Earth Catalog.
Unfortunately, much of the woo has flourished within popular culture even as serious, science-based environmentalism has also flourished. Sorting out the difference can sometimes be a snipe hunt.
- Whether or not organic food is beneficial to the environment or just woo is debated. The answer depends on whether one considers reducing the amount of pesticides entering the food chain more important when the trade-off is increasing the amount of land required to grow the same food (up to 40% more), potentially encroaching on open space and wild areas.
- Another problem, also associated with organic farming, is the dogmatic rejection of genetic engineering, which actually can harm or help the environment, depending on who's arguing. Technologies such as the Genetic Use Restriction Technology, aimed at legitimate environmental concerns, such as cross-pollination, pesticides, and biodiversity loss are restricted, if not banned.
- The "paper or plastic" question and the "incandescent (including halogen) or fluorescent light" question could likewise be defended either way, depending on which environmental issue has the higher priority (saving trees versus saving the ocean; curbing global warming versus keeping mercury out of the food chain), although with the rising popularity of LEDs further complicates the issue of preferred type of lighting.
- Opposition to nuclear energy is common within the movement, but some environmentalists support it as a measure to fight global warming or as a transition technology towards a society powered entirely by other renewable energy.
Denialism is a different sort of environmental woo, pretending environmental issues don't exist in the hope they will go away. It is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it is an appropriate label for an irrational refusal to confront the reality of environmental problems, but it can also be a club used to unfairly class legitimate dissenters in with the more abhorrent Holocaust deniers.
- Cornucopian vs. Malthusian debate
- Earth Day
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(Some of which may solicit you for additional money for the rest of your natural life if you send them $5.)
- Earth First!
- Earth Liberation Front
- Green Party
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- Sierra Club
- Naturally, it is possible to create harmful plants and animals using DNA recombination (e.g. by introducing genes for a powerful bacterial toxin), but the anti-GMO movement does not oppose certain traits that it considers harmful; it opposes GM food strictly due to the fact that it was obtained through DNA recombination.