The word “tree hugger” is a slang, sometimes derogatory, term for environmentalists.
Whether a person would take offense to being called a “treehugger” really depends on the person. I lived in Arcata, Ca for seven years and many people were proud to be called a “treehugger”. I had talked with a person during a protest to prevent forest logging and he was proud to be a “treehugger”. To him it meant that he was someone who cared enough about the environment to take a stand for it, he was actually arrested during the protest for refusing to get out of the way. To try and stop the forest logging people would hug a tree, or hold hands around larger trees forming a circle, so they were proud to be “treehuggers”.
I agree with portland on this one. There are thousands of activists that would be happy to be called treehuggers. However, I recognize it as something which corporate dingoes call environmentally active people in a derogatory manner. If someone who doesn’t care about the environment calls a member of Greenpeace a treehugger, he is undermining that person’s work and ideals with his attempt at an insult.
It doesn’t have to be, and some people embrace the term. But, typically when a person calls another person a treehugger, it is meant to be an insult and to condescend, as if being environmentally conscious were a lesser pursuit.
It depends on who’s saying it. People who are not big on the environment would see it as a derogatory term. However, people who are committed to environmental protection may see it as a slang term for someone who does the same. It’s all about context.
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