I would say practically every one is an environmentalist to some extent. Environmentalists are simply people who have some sort of interest in not harming the environment. So I would argue that even a rich oil tycoon, or a logger in the Amazon, as anti-environmentalist as they may seem, would still have some vested interest in drinking water that doesn’t kill them, or being able to breathe air that still has oxygen in it. So even though there may be a few psychologically disturbed people out there who’d like to see our world end (in which case there’s no desire to save anything, much less the environment,) I’d say nearly every human on this planet has an inherent desire to survive, and therefore needs the environment in order to do so. Obviously people care about the environment to varying degrees, some devoting their whole lives to taking direct action, for example. But if we can start to see every one as having more similarities rather that differences, in terms of environmental concerns for example, then maybe we can collectively change things to meet every one’s needs.
Like “feminist”, “environmentalist” is a tricky word to define while simultaneously being ubiquitous in discussions at both the political and the individual level. Without a definition, it becomes impossible to quantify the group. As a label, it can be applied to the self with pride or to the other with derision, as it often is in heated political debates.
I agree that the environment can be equated with survival, as we are dependant on air and water and food sources compatible with our bodies if we want to survive. Expanding from that basic definition to one where the environment is valued intrinsically, rather than simply as a means for our human survival, I’m sure that the number of people calling themselves environmentalists would decrease.
I absolutely agree with ingsaratt’s post, to which I’ll add the extent to which the label ‘environmentalist’ has been, for all intents and purposes, controlled by people you might consider ‘anti-environmentalists’. The word has undergone the same stigmatization as ‘liberal’.
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