environmentalism

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environmentalism,

movement to protect the quality and continuity of life through conservation of natural resourcesconservation of natural resources,
the wise use of the earth's resources by humanity. The term conservation came into use in the late 19th cent. and referred to the management, mainly for economic reasons, of such valuable natural resources as timber, fish, game, topsoil,
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, prevention of pollutionpollution,
contamination of the environment as a result of human activities. The term pollution refers primarily to the fouling of air, water, and land by wastes (see air pollution; water pollution; solid waste).
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, and control of land useland use,
exploitation of land for agricultural, industrial, residential, recreational, or other purposes. Because the United States historically has a laissez-faire attitude toward land use, the land has been exploited at will for economic gain.
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. The philosophical foundations for environmentalism in the United States were established by Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. In 1864, George Perkins Marsh published Man & Nature, in which he anticipated many concepts of modern ecologyecology,
study of the relationships of organisms to their physical environment and to one another. The study of an individual organism or a single species is termed autecology; the study of groups of organisms is called synecology.
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.

Organized environmentalism began with the conservation movement in the late 19th cent., which urged the establishment of state and national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, and national monuments intended to preserve noteworthy natural features. Early conservationists included President Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club. Conservationists organized the National Parks and Conservation Association, the Audubon SocietyAudubon Society, National,
one of the oldest and best-known U.S. environmental organizations; founded 1886 by George Cird Grinnell and named for John James Audubon. The nonprofit organization, which has a membership of 550,000, operates 100 wildlife sanctuaries and nature
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, the Izaak Walton League, and other groups still active. After World War II increasing encroachment on wilderness land evoked the continued resistance of conservationists, who succeeded in blocking a number of projects in the 1950s and 1960s, including the proposed Bridge Canyon Dam that would have backed up the waters of the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon National Park.

The "New Environmentalism"

In the 1950s and 1960s, the public was becoming aware that conservation of wilderness and wildlife was but one aspect of protecting an endangered environment. Concern about air pollutionair pollution,
contamination of the air by noxious gases and minute particles of solid and liquid matter (particulates) in concentrations that endanger health. The major sources of air pollution are transportation engines, power and heat generation, industrial processes, and the
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, water pollutionwater pollution,
contamination of water resources by harmful wastes; see also sewerage, water supply, pollution, and environmentalism. Industrial Pollution
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, solid wastesolid waste,
discarded materials other than fluids. In the United States in 1996, nearly 210 million tons—about 4.3 lb. (2 kg) per person daily (up from 2.7 lb./1.2 kg in 1960)—were collected and disposed of by municipalities.
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 disposal, dwindling energy resources, radiation, pesticide poisoning (particularly as described in Rachel Carson's influential Silent Spring, 1962), noise pollutionnoise pollution,
human-created noise harmful to health or welfare. Transportation vehicles are the worst offenders, with aircraft, railroad stock, trucks, buses, automobiles, and motorcycles all producing excessive noise. Construction equipment, e.g.
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, and other environmental problems engaged a broadening number of sympathizers and gave rise to what became known as the "new environmentalism." Public support for these issues culminated in the Earth DayEarth Day,
Apr. 22, a day to celebrate the environment. The first Earth Day was organized in 1970 to promote the ideas of ecology, encourage respect for life on earth, and highlight growing concern over pollution of the soil, air, and water.
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 demonstrations of 1970.

The new movement had a broader goal—to preserve life on the planet. The more radical groups believe that continued industrial development is incompatible with environmentalism. Other groups, notably GreenpeaceGreenpeace,
international organization that promotes environmental awareness and addresses environmental abuse through direct, nonviolent confrontations with governments and companies. Founded in 1971 to oppose U.S.
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, which advocated direct action to preserve endangered species, often clashed violently with opponents. Less militant organizations called for sustainable development and the need to balance environmentalism with economic development.

Environmental Legislation

The environmental movement generated extensive legislation, notably the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), signed into law in 1970, which established an Environmental Protection Agency and a Council on Environmental Quality; the Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1990; the Water Pollution Control Act, as amended in 1972; other laws regulating noise, pesticides, toxic substances, and ocean dumping; and laws to protect endangered species, wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers. NEPA requires all federal agencies to file impact statements assessing the environmental consequences of proposed projects such as highways, jet runways, bridges, dams, and nuclear power plants. Moreover, the new laws provide for pollution research, standard setting, monitoring, and enforcement. Citizens are empowered to sue both private industry and government agencies for violating antipollution standards. Subsequent legislation includes the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as the Superfund Act (1980). In the 1980s under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush many acts were allowed to expire and the scope of environmental protection was curtailed.

Environmental Organizations and Conferences

Several environmental organizations, among them the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, specialize in bringing lawsuits. Other environmentalist groups, such as the National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, the Nature Conservancy, and the Wilderness Society, disseminate information, participate in public hearings, lobby, stage demonstrations, and purchase land for preservation. A smaller group, including Wildlife Conservation International and the Worldwide Fund for Nature, conduct research on endangered species and ecosystems. More radical organizations, such 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, the underground Earth Liberation Front engages in the clandestine destruction of property, the release of caged or penned animals, and other acts of sabotage.

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 the United Nations Conference on Environment and DevelopmentUnited Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) or Earth Summit,
an 11-day meeting held in June, 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to discuss the global conflict between economic development and environmental protection.
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 (1992).

Bibliography

For a general introduction, see C. Merchant, The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History (2002). See also R. J. Dubos, So Human an Animal (1970); R. M. Chute, Environmental Insight (1971); Environmental Action Association, Earth Tool Kit, ed. by S. Love (1971); P. R. Ehrlich, comp., Man and the Ecosphere (1971); Population, Resources, Environment (with A. H. Ehrlich, 2d ed. 1972), and Human Ecology (with others, 1973); J. L. Sax, Defending the Environment (1972); G. J. Marco et al., ed., Silent Spring Revisited (1987); D. A. Dunnette and R. J. O'Brien, ed., The Science of Global Change (1992); P. Shabecoff, A New Name for Peace (1997).

Environmentalism

 

a trend in bourgeois geography that attributes to the geographic environment the decisive role in the development of society and social production. It originated in the USA. The development of the economy and its distribution are regarded as proceeding from the natural traits of the particular area.

Disregarding the role played by the means of the production of material goods, the representatives of environmentalism (E. Semple, R. Smith, and G. Taylor) assert that the international division of labor is predetermined by differences in the natural environment. One of the branches of environmentalism is E. Huntington’s theory of climate optimums, according to which only the peoples of countries located within the temperate zone are in the highest degree capable of progress and are called upon to “direct the world.” Trends similar to environmentalism are reactionary in nature and are based on geographic determinism.

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