The evolution of an “Environmentalist” – Part 1

Am I an environmentalist?
Originally, no.

I came to “environmentalism” through a belief in the value and worth of human beings. The logic is thus:

*I like humans. I like living.
*Humans need water, air, food, shelter to live.
*Humans are destroying the very things on which their future existence depends – nature.
*So, protect nature to protect the future existence of humans.

Growing up on a farm, I had a closer relationship with the water, air and dirt that made our food than many people, which is probably why I came to this seriousness as young as I did.

In junior high, I started turning off the water facet anytime it absolutely wasn’t necessary, like when brushing my teeth, and seeing how short I could possibly make my shower to conserve as much water as possible. In high school, I joined the environmental club, became president of the club, and helped implement a school wide recycling program and planted a tree in the courtyard, so we wouldn’t have to get a cut one every year for christmas.

At the age of 15, I decided that I wanted to save the world. Since I liked the trees and nature and saw their importance to human survival, I adopted the label “environmentalist” and the movement “environmentalism” because it was the closest fit out there.

Since then, my understanding of environmentalism has evolved. It is no longer just the protecting of trees. (Ironically, I work for an organization that does precisely just that.) Early in college, I got tired of being considered the “enemy” by my family, namely grandparents, still on the farm. To them, environmentalism was a dirty word, and I’d succomded to the dark side of the force as a city-slicker who just wanted to take away all of their land from them. Being the enemy upset me, in large part, because I got a large part of my love for nature from them.

So, I set out to build bridges. I recognized that many environmentalists and environmentalism did a very poor job at communicating with and understanding people who weren’t already card-carrying tree-huggers. This was not a good strategy for a movement that needed as many supporters as possible to affect the scale of change that was necessary to make the earth a place still inhabitable for current and future generations.

Around that time (I’m still in my first or second year at university) I came across and read The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken. What he wrote made so much sense to me. Basically, that business, consumers, economics and money could be used as a force for positive change for the environment. Because of this I minored in microeconomics, to give me a solid understanding of markets, supply and demand, cost-benefit ratios, and externalities. Combined with my major of Environmental Policy (of course), I called my course of study Environmental Economics, as there was no such major. The idea was that I could translate between environmentalists and businesses so that they could see the benefits to the bottom line and the environment of working together and accounting for the externalities of doing business.

At this time, I was also integrating the idea of the consumer activist…

-end of part 1-

It’s now past my computer curfew, so you’ll have to wait a few days for the next installment.

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