The Significance of Environmentalism in History


Since the beginning of time, humans have had a respectful and delicate relationship with nature. In Greek mythology, the Goddess Artemis represented the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity; this shows how highly the Greeks viewed their natural surroundings. Even 2,000 years previous to the present, countries like Peru and India were practicing soil conservation, which was known to protect the soil's fertility from unsustainable usage. It is a demonstration of early humans' understanding of their obligation to treat their environment with sacred appreciation. 


Environmentalism can be defined as a social and (more recently) political movement to preserve and restore the quality of the environment through changing environmentally destructive actions of humans. In modern terms, the rapid global usage of scarce resources - such as through deforestation and fracking - have brought environmentalism to the political foreground because of the increase in protests against these harmful practices. Scientists and Non-Governmental Organisations like Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion take action in order to raise awareness for climate change and the harmful effects that institutions are having by not reducing their carbon emissions. Amongst these activists lies a strong presence of the younger generations; government leaders are finally beginning to listen to these pressing calls for turning environmental policy towards mitigating emissions and funding advancement in technology which will allow for sustainable use of resources - and importantly, respect for the natural environment will be a priority. 


Arguably one of the most controversial environmental activists in modern society is Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who is well known around the world for her bold criticisms of world leaders for not acting urgently enough to the environmental crisis the whole population facing. Greta is an example of a modern environmentalist, because her leading role in School Strikes For Climate in 2018 and her travel change from flying to solar-powered sailing is a demonstration of the changes deemed necessary to combat the massive daily, monthly, and yearly emissions driving the human race towards what scientists are calling the point of no return. Whilst this paramount issue looms over the heads of most politically active individuals, 2019 and 2020 have faced massive steps in a positive direction for environmental policy. Under Boris Johnson's Conservative government in 2019, the UK is required to reach net 0 carbon by 2050 - a target which was recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. Thus far, the UK's carbon emmissions are their lowest since 1894. 


To conclude, environmentalism has great significance in the histories of many cultures globally. The recent return of environmentalism can be seen as a step in the right direction towards greater respect for the planet, and the health of humans and nature alike. 


Bella Sutherland