Environmentalism can be defined as a branch of philosophy that is relatively broad encompassing aspects of social movement which focus much on the state of the environment for instance aspects of environmental conservation like prevention of pollution and destruction which is facilitated by human beings’ indulgence in environmental unfriendly operations. It is the view of the environment as being a very critical element that affects a majority of other life issues especially those linked to growth and development.
Civil disobedience on the other hand is the act of disobeying a particular law, a command or even a demand of a government or any other body in power. It is in most cases based on moral or political grounds and usually takes an active form although no form of violence is involved. This piece of work gives a critical evaluation of environmentalism and the movements involved as well as an assessment of the relationship between environmentalism and civil disobedience.
Environmentalism movements and their activists
Environmentalism and the need to safeguard and protect the environment have led to the rise of various environmental movements all which are associated with a group of activists. Environmental movement can be traced in the mid twentieth century where most people were able to recognize the importance of the environment.
The earth day in 1969 and its success is a point of reference when it comes to environmental movements and it led to the formation of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency the same year which acted as a unit of protecting the environment through establishment of various laws and policies.
Various environmental movements have since been formed with modern movements undergoing a lot of changes due to the changes in the environment for instance global warming. Some of the known environmental movement activists include Dai Qing an anti-dam pioneer, Jose Bove, Amory Lovins, Wangarii Maathai, David Bellamy, Sinafasi Makeloadrien, Marina Silvia, Paul Watson, Oral Ataniyazova, and Medhapatkar among others all advocating for protection of various aspects of the environment (Scoop world par 1).
Environmentalism movements and civil disobedience
What the current society is enjoying today is considered to be because of the good care of the environment by the previous generations and the future generations are hence expected to either enjoy or suffer from what the current generation do to the environment today.
For this reasons numerous environmental groups have been formed in an effort to protect the environment. They have however not been successful due to the presence of issues like global warming which has proved quite difficult to combat despite cost that has been incurred in various strategies aimed at combating it.
This has been attributed to failure of these environmental foundations in terms of their strategies and priorities and hence some changes should be considered. In the ancient times, environmental foundations were very powerful and various laws had been enacted to safeguard the environment and the various resources that are found therein.
This has however changed over years and the environmental foundations have become weak as the environmental problems diversify. Global warming has acted as a way of exposing the weaknesses of the current environmentalist movements as they have been unable to combat it, a concept that could have been better prevented through avoiding some behaviors rather that curing it when it is already too late and has already caused a lot of damages.
The environmentalists are now left with an option of learning from the past mistakes and laying down effective strategies to carry on the fight against extinction which has greatly affected living organism the most notable one being global warming. The indulgence in civil disobedience has been a common aspect among the environmental activists as they try all they can to protect and safeguard the environment (Shellenberger and Nordhaus par 22).
Welchman (par 10) asserts that there has been a lot of controversy in the definition of civil disobedience and the practices that should be classified under this category. The contention comes in on the aspect of violence and the action that should be termed to be violent and those that are nonviolent. It is argued that violence should be considered as violence irrespective of the degree and that there is no difference between violence on property and that on living organisms.
The society has for a long time been unfriendly to the environment or nature but this aspect has to a large extent been exacerbated by industrial and technological advancement which has led to competition of the scarce natural resources making the society to be to undertake environmentally unfriendly operations without thinking of the effects they not only cause to the environment but also to themselves and the generations to come.
The environment and its various components or natural resources is a very critical tool that dictates various aspects for instance the rainfall to be received, the exposure to harmful rays which is affected by the state of the ozone layer among other aspects. It should therefore be protected from any form of destruction like through air, water and soil pollution.
Those involved in perpetrating aspects of environmentalism (environmental activists) usually use non violent means hence the issue of civil disobedience as the practices undertaken usually do not employ any form of violence. Civil disobedience entails the protesting of individuals for a certain issue to be fulfilled and it is usually taken as the last resort when other forms of strategies for example the legal system seem not to be effective.
The individuals involved in destruction of the environment are deemed to be violent to property or rather the environment while the environmental activists are deemed to be violent on the people hence creating a ground that plays a great role in promoting much destruction to the environment as people feel oppressed as though their rights are being interfered with.
A more approachable strategy should therefore be adopted by the environmental activists in their effort to deal with those that carry out the environmentally unfriendly activities so as to ensure that those involved are able to avoid the activities and practices voluntarily as opposed to taking it as a form of forced action where violence is involved hence provoking rebellious actions.
This will in a way attract cooperation and participation of all the parties involved making it easier to solve the problem of environmental destruction.
Kumar and Bowers (par 2) asserts that non violence practices are always the best when dealing with any life issue. “There is no real distinction between violence to people and violence to property.
Violence is ultimately violence.” (Par 5). Non violent approaches should be employed by the environmental activists to sensitize the government, organizations and the general society to take effective measures towards conserving the environment. This could be achieved through educative campaigns that focus on the importance of conserving the environment both to the present as well as the future generations. It is however argued that non violence only works well in some situations but not in others.
It is true that most people engage in some destructive practices out of ignorance where they do not understand the significance attached to the environment as well as the effects faced as a result of its destruction and hence informing them through mass campaigns would make a great difference as they would learn to be accountable for their actions with the knowledge that harming the environment also endangers their lives.
According to Little (Par 3) environmental activists usually turn to civil disobedience as a result of various reasons for example frustration as they see the environment being destroyed while they have no control over it despite having the knowledge of how it would affect the society.
It become even more painful to see that even the systems or bodies that are expected to see that the environment and the natural resources therein is protected and safeguarded for instance the government and its various legal systems do not make any effort to ensure this.
It therefore follows to these environmental activist that direct action which may at times involve some form violence is the only left option that should be taken to ensure that extinction of the endangered ecosystems and natural resources does not occur which will also act as a way of safeguarding all the other species that depend upon the ecosystems of which most of them are very essential for sustaining human beings either directly or indirectly and their destruction or extinction ought to cost them a great deal.
Environmental activists have been involved in very dangerous experiences with some succumbing deaths in their efforts to safeguard the environment mainly because they attach a lot of significance in it with some perceiving it to be sacred and hence any interruption is highly objected.
Some are also driven by political forces where they behave as special interest groups contrary to what they ought to be, while others are fuelled by their science related knowledge and their passion for nature. “Most radical environmentalists are inspired by a deeply held belief that the earth is sacred. To their dismay, scientists report that human intervention is causing an extinction crisis” (Little par 4).
Environmental activists have in most cases faced a lot of frustration due to failure in their missions mainly because they advocate for immediate solutions which are not possible as some aspects require prior strategic planning for the actions to take effect and meet desired results. The believe that the losses suffered cannot be recovered is also a contributing factor to indulgence in civil disobedience in an effort to hide their disappointment and look for some solutions which are not achieved in most cases.
Civil disobedience is however considered as an option only when the other legal actions seem to be ineffective. Studies have shown that the environmentalists and their foundations should either change their ways and strategies or new foundations be formed since nothing significant is to be achieved with the existing condition which has turned the foundations to be mere interest groups.
Another recommendation is that the environmentalists should frame their proposals and strategies around the core nation’s values so that all the policies and strategies can be integrated along with the overall nation’s values for easy implementation. This will help in dealing with environmental issues like global warming among others. Looking back into what the earlier environmentalists did to progress is also a good idea since various aspects could be learnt so as to avoid more deterioration of the environment.
It is evident that there is a very close relationship between environmentalism and civil disobedience where some people gang up to go against the policies of various powerful bodies like the government since whenever there is a law or any form of authority, there are usually some form of resistance. Civil disobedience has played a very significant role in many social reforms and environmentalism is not an exception.
Some of the forms of civil disobedience that are linked with environmentalism involve forest occupations where people tend to make homes in the forests, blockades, graffiti, tree sits and sit-ins, tree spiking, vandalism and even arson among others all aimed at protecting the environment as a way of making it possible to achieve the set goals. Civil disobedience is however considered as the last resort and not as the main strategy.
Kumar, Satish and Bowers, Jake. “Can The Use Of Violence Environmental – Debate on The Place of Violence and Non-violence in Environmental Activism”. Ecologist, The. FindArticles.com. 2000. Apr. 15, 2011.
Little, Braxton Jane. “Crimes for Nature – Environmental Radicals – Editorial. American Forests. FindArticles.com.1999. Apr. 15, 2011.
Pearce, Fred. “List of Top Ten Environmental Activists”. Scoop world. 2006. April 21, 2011.
Shellenberger, Michael and Nordhaus, Ted. The death of environmentalism: Global warming politics in a post-Environmental world. Social policy, Spring, 2005.
Welchman, J. Is Ecosabotage Civil Disobedience? Philosophy & Geography, Vol. 4, NO. 1, 2001