Even though their ultimate goals might be similar, to save the eco-systems or the planet from destruction, not every environmental activist tries to achieve the goal in the same manner.
There are hundreds of environmental groups around the world trying to preserve trees, protect animals, and reduce carbon emissions. By identifying the types of environmentalism that exist, you can figure out what kind of environmentalist you want to become.
Types of Environmentalism
If you have concerns about the environment, then the actions you take can tell you what type of environmentalism that you practice. While some experts claim that up to 12 types exist, many of those environmental movements can fit into the same category.
Five basic types of environmentalism exist, including:
The idea behind apocalyptic environmentalism is that the Earth has a bleak future and that ignoring climate change will only end in catastrophe.
This environmental movement has its roots in the 1960s and 70s with works like “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, “The Limits to Growth” written by Donella H. Meadows, and “Blueprint for Survival” by Edward Goldsmith. These books suggest there are limits to what the planet can sustain.
While some people think that governments limiting human activity can help save the planet, others believe in finding or inventing substitutes for resources is the best way to preserve the environment. For instance, instead of using fossil fuels to produce energy, wind turbines or solar panels can generate the energy that's necessary for businesses and homes.
Some who believed in this type of environmentalism, such as Paul Ehrlich, thought the planet had already reached its potential, and stretching resources could lead to a substantial amount of deaths. Although the book was published in 1968, from 1980 to 1989, food shortages around the world lead to the deaths of four billion people, including about 65 million in the United States.
The ideas behind apocalyptic environmentalism are still around. The emphasis on the rising waters flooding the land and deforestation causing those rising waters to have many scientists scrambling to get countries to understand how climate change affects everyone. It also uses the tact that the planet cannot survive much longer if environmental policies around the world do not change.
Beginning in the 1970s, environmental experts came up with strategies to help save the planet. Some of the concepts they came up with were:
By taking a positive approach of forming an ecological consciousness and promoting ethical stewardship, the leaders behind this movement could get more people behind their cause. One idea that was successful was the idea of human-welfare ecology.
This concept says that bettering human life is possible by having a clean, safe environment. It put an emphasis on quality of life issues that affect everyone by encouraging industries to look at them through the lens of economic concerns.
While the interconnection between these interests and natural systems were often dismissed, an American ecologist and a German economist promoted the idea of small-scale production that could integrate the surrounding ecosystems. Their idea was to use more organic and renewable resources in production, instead of synthetic goods like chemicals and plastic.
Many of the ideas behind Emancipatory Environmentalism are still in use today. Many cities encourage recycling to reduce garbage in landfills, corporations are removing plastic bags and straws from use in their businesses, and there is increasing demand for more products made from recycled goods. This approach still uses a slogan from the 1990s, “think globally, act locally.”
Free Market Environmentalism
If you’re an environmentalist who also believes in free trade, then this approach to environmentalism may be something you can get behind. The concept came from a book of the same name “Free Market Environmentalism” published in 1991.
The emphasis of the book is that free markets can protect the planet better than governmental regulation by using property rights and tort law to encourage corporations to absorb production costs and conserve resources.
However, many people are critical of this approach, mainly those who see free markets as the problem, not a solution. They say the concept is dependent on legislators having enough information to regulate industries, know who has the rights to specific properties to use its resources and be able to apply social taxes to those who pollute the resources fairly.
While critics of this theory exist, some environmental organizations see Free Market Environmentalism (FME) as an essential part of the solution to saving the planet. They claim it can help provide the best benefits for the environment at the lowest costs.
Many evangelical Christians proclaim that they must be good stewards to God's Creation and see Genesis 2:15 as a mandate from God to take of the Earth and wildlife. In recent years, the priority for evangelicals is climate change.
Although the 1970s saw most evangelical Christians reject the environmental movement because they lumped it in with the culture wars, younger evangelicals are embracing it. They see environmentalism as their duty to make sure the Earth and its creatures receive their protection.
Also, groups like the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization have come to adopt major environmental initiatives. In 2011, this group made a call to action to thousands of Christian leaders from 198 countries in Cape Town South Africa to dedicate themselves to caring for the planet.
The Cape Town Commitment asks leaders to persuade their governments to make environmentalism a moral obligation instead of choosing political expediency. Also, during the same year, the National Association of Evangelicals put out a 56-page paper outlining why Christians should engage with issues concerning the environment.
However, many evangelicals have been slow to change. They still think that environmentalism means embracing paganism and is a slippery slope to approving more of the “left’s agenda” and being soft on gay marriage, abortion, and other radical ideas.
In some surveys, like the 2015 Pew Research Center’s survey regarding religious views on energy and climate, only 28 percent of white evangelicals thought climate change was due to human activity. However, 77 percent of Hispanic Catholics thought humans did affect the environment.
The same survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of those evangelicals thought environmental issues would impact the resources enough to create food shortages. However, 49 percent thought that those resources would eventually stretch enough to provide everyone with food.
Change among the religious, especially evangelicals, can be slow. Fortunately, by learning more about the stewardship of the Earth some say the Bible mentions, more evangelicals are coming around to the idea that environmentalism for them is about obedience to God, not a kooky leftwing idea.
Preservation and Conservation Environmentalism
Many people who have concerns about the fate of the Earth use the terms preservation and conservation interchangeably. However, the two terms are different in many ways and using them, in the same manner, can be confusing.
Conservation speaks to managing and sustainably using natural resources, like:
It is important to take care of these resources because they have finite amounts and once, they're gone, and they cannot be brought back. However, conservation also considers humans and their needs and interests. For example, conservation recognizes the economic, biological, cultural, and recreational value of resources and that development is necessary for the future if it’s not wasteful.
Preservation is the act of trying to maintain the areas of the Earth where man hasn’t gone. The basis of this idea that humans are moving into uninhabited areas and developing it for farming, tourism, housing, and business.
While many preservationists believe in preserving nature for reasons related to humans, some hardcore preservationists believe that all living things and their ecosystems need protection and preservation, despite any dangers they present to humans and the costs of helping to preserve them.
What Type of Environmentalist are You?
Many people support saving the planet and conserving nature because of the symbiotic relationship that humans have with nature. Along with being dependent on nature for food, recreation, and livelihoods, polluting the atmosphere with chemicals not only affects them, but humans too.
However, not everyone thinks alike, and these five types of environmentalism reflect that fact. Do you now know what type of environmentalist you are from briefly examining them? If you believe that the destruction of the Earth is imminent unless radical changes are made to environmental policies, then apocalyptic environmentalism could speak to you.
If you recycle as much as possible before throwing away trash, old clothing, or toys, and seek out alternative energies for your home and vehicle, then emancipatory environmentalism as your school of thought for preserving the planet.
Free Market Environmentalism is going to entice those who believe in free markets and capitalism because it seeks solutions using the law to help conserve resources and save money. However, if you think that it is divine providence that gave humans the responsibility of managing the planet, you might be an evangelical environmentalist.
Conservation and preservation play a role in most forms of environmentalism. They seek to conserve resources or preserve resources and nature for future generations, although they go about it in different ways. Knowing these types of environmentalism allows you to follow your beliefs and save the planet at the same time.