Environmentalism can also be defined as a social movement that seeks to influence the political process by lobbying, activism, and education in order to protect natural resources and ecosystems. In recognition of humanity as a participant in ecosystems, the environmental movement is centered on ecology, health, and human rights.
An environmentalist is a person who may advocate stewardship of the natural environment and the sustainable management of its resources through changes in public policy or individual behavior by supporting practices such as recycling. In various ways (for example, grassroots activism and protests), environmentalists and environmental organizations seek to give the natural world a stronger voice in human affairs.
In recent years environmentalism has frequently been called, or compared to, a religion by its detractors. This is usually done at the same time as pointing out what are perceived as extremist viewpoints or actions of self-identified environmentalists or groups.
Free Market Enviromentalism
Free market environmentalism is a theory that argues that the free market, property rights, and tort law provide the best tools to preserve the health and sustainability of the environment. It considers environmental stewardship to be natural, as well as the expulsion of polluters and other aggressors through individual and class action.
Preservation and Conservation
Environmental preservation in the United States is viewed as the setting aside of natural resources to prevent damage caused by contact with humans or by certain human activities, such as logging, mining, hunting, and fishing, only to replace them with new human activities such as tourism and recreation. Regulations and laws may be enacted for the preservation of natural resources.
Organizations and Conferences
Environmental organizations can be global, regional, national or local; they can be government-run or private (NGO). Despite a tendency to see environmentalism as an American or Western-centered pursuit, almost every country has its share of environmental activism. Moreover, groups dedicated to community development and social justice may also attend to environmental concerns.
There are some volunteer organizations. For example Ecoworld, which is about the environment and is based in team work and volunteer work. Some US environmental organizations, among them the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, specialize in bringing lawsuits (a tactic seen as particularly useful in that country). Other groups, such as the US-based National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, and The Wilderness Society, and global groups like the World Wide Fund for Nature and Friends of the Earth, disseminate information, participate in public hearings, lobby, stage demonstrations, and may purchase land for preservation. Smaller groups, including Wildlife Conservation International, conduct research on endangered species and ecosystems. More radical organizations, such as Greenpeace, Earth First!, and the Earth Liberation Front, have more directly opposed actions they regard as environmentally harmful. While Greenpeace is devoted to nonviolent confrontation as a means of bearing witness to environmental wrongs and bringing issues into the public realm for debate, the underground Earth Liberation Front engages in the clandestine destruction of property, the release of caged or penned animals, and other criminal acts. Such tactics are regarded as unusual within the movement, however.
On an international level, concern for the environment was the subject of a UN conference in Stockholm in 1972, attended by 114 nations. Out of this meeting developed UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and the follow-up United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Other international organizations in support of environmental policies development include the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (NAFTA), the European Environment Agency (EEA), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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