What is an environmentalist?!

September 29, 2007 at 2:37 am | Posted in Environment | 3 Comments

I posed your question, phrased in a different way, to a few friends (young and old) matt.

This is how young children responded:

  • An environmentalist? I have no idea
  • Invo-what?  I’ve never heard that word …

Children a few years older figured it out as a professional (scientific) calling, even if they had not heard the term before:

  • Someone who knows a lot about the environment
  • He’d probably be a good geologist, or biologist, or physicist—I mean he would study the environment

On the other hand, when I asked adults “If I introduced you to Jane Smith by telling you she is an environmentalist, what would your first thoughts about her be?” their emotional responses showed contempt:

  • A Treehugger!
  • An idealist …
  • Probably a bit of a hippie
  • Someone who is disconnected from the real world. (So I asked, “Do you mean physically living away from society, or mentally unaware?) Both ~ I mean she does not understand how the world works
  • A nature lover
  • Someone who is ineffective
  • She is passionate about the environment

As  I get more answers, I shall add them to the list!

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3 Comments »

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  1. Argh, how jaded we’ve become. I would say an environmentalist is more connected to the “real” world. But, I define the real world different; not by our material possessions that we assign random values to, or the politics and false power games we tend to get caught up in, but by what was here before us and will be long after us, if we don’t destroy it first. I can think of nothing more real than life itself. I don’t mind the treehugger tag though 😉 Neat post, interesting.

  2. Interesting responses inel! Fairly predictable I suppose. I don’t really like the term environmentalist because it allows an us and them position which we can’t afford to encourage.

    Everybody needs to be on board or at least play their part however small to bring about intelligent change in our interaction with the environments that surround us.

    Destruction via greed cannot prevail.

    I like your response Christina.

  3. It comes up occasionally, but as a climatologist I thoroughly dislike having my profession described as “environmentalist”. Environmentalism describes a political position, not a profession.

    There is such a thing as a geologist, but there is no such thing as geologism.

    I cringe in the same way as I do when I hear young people using the word “downfall” to mean “drawback” though it’s less personal in that case.

    Language does change, of course. But sometimes the change is unpleasant for the older generation and hinders communication.


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