Protecting our future
Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements. Environmentalism advocates the lawful preservation, restoration and/or improvement of the natural environment, and may be referred to as a movement to control pollution or protect plant and animal diversity. For this reason, concepts such as a land ethic, environmental ethics, biodiversity, ecology, and the bio philia hypothesis figure predominantly.
At its crux, environmentalism is an attempt to balance relations between humans and the various natural systems on which they depend in such a way that all the components are accorded a proper degree of sustainability. The exact measures and outcomes of this balance are controversial and there are many different ways for environmental concerns to be expressed in practice. Environmentalism and environmental concerns are often represented by the color green, but this association has been appropriated by the marketing industries for the tactic known as greenwashing. Environmentalism is opposed by anti-environmentalism, which says that the Earth is less fragile than some environmentalists maintain, and portrays environmentalism as overreacting to the human contribution to climate change or opposing human advancement.
An environmentalist is a person who may speak out about our natural environment and the sustainable management of its resources through changes in public policy or individual behavior. This may include supporting practices such as informed consumption, conservation initiatives, investment in renewable resources, improved efficiency in the materials economy, transitioning to new accounting paradigms such as Ecological economics and renewing and revitalizing our connections with non-human life.
It was, however, only under the impetus of the Great Smog of 1952 in London, which almost brought the city to a standstill and may have caused upward of 6,000 deaths that the Clean Air Act 1956 was passed and pollution in the city was finally brought to an end. Financial incentives were offered to householders to replace open coal fires with alternatives (such as installing gas fires), or for those who preferred, to burn coke instead (a byproduct of town gas production) which produces minimal smoke. ‘Smoke control areas’ were introduced in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt and power stations were relocated away from cities. The act formed an important impetus to modern environmentalism, and caused a rethinking of the dangers of environmental degradation to people’s quality of life.
The late 19th century also saw the passage of the first wildlife conservation laws. The zoologist Alfred Newton published a series of investigations into the Desirability of establishing a ‘Close-time’ for the preservation of indigenous animals between 1872 and 1903. His advocacy for legislation to protect animals from hunting during the mating season led to the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and influenced the passage of the Sea Birds Preservation Act in 1869 as the first nature protection law in the world.