(Redirected from Environmentalists)

An environmentalist is a person who is concerned with and/or advocates for the protection of the environment. An environmentalist can be considered a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities".[1] An environmentalist is engaged in or believes in the philosophy of environmentalism or one of the related philosophies.

Dominique Voynet
John Muir

The environmental movement has a number of subcommunities, with different approaches and focuses – each developing distinct movements and identities. Environmentalists are sometimes referred to by critics with informal or derogatory terms such as "greenie" and "tree-hugger",[2] with some members of the public associating the most radical environmentalists with these derogatory terms.[3]



The environmental movement contains a number of subcommunities, that have developed with different approaches and philosophies in different parts of the world. Notably, the early environmental movement experienced a deep tension between the philosophies of conservation and broader environmental protection.[3] In recent decades the rise to prominence of environmental justice, indigenous rights and key environmental crises like the climate crises, has led to the development of other environmentalist identities. Environmentalists can be describe as one of the following:

Climate activists


The public recognition of the climate crisis and emergence of the climate movement in the beginning of the 21st century led to a distinct group of activists. Activations like the School Strike for Climate and Fridays for Future, have led to a new generation of youth activists like Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin and Vanessa Nakate who have created a global youth climate movement.[4][5]



One notable strain of environmentalism, comes from the philosophy of the conservation movement. Conservationists are concerned with leaving the environment in a better state than the condition they found it distinct from human interaction.[6][7] The conservation movement is associated with the early parts of the environmental movement of the 19th and 20th century.[8]

Environmental defenders


Environmental defenders or environmental human rights defenders are individuals or collectives who protect the environment from harms resulting from resource extraction, hazardous waste disposal, infrastructure projects, land appropriation, or other dangers. In 2019, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously recognised their importance to environmental protection.[9] The term environmental defender is broadly applied to a diverse range of environmental groups and leaders from different cultures that all employ different tactics and hold different agendas. Use of the term is contested, as it homogenizes such a wide range of groups and campaigns, many of whom do not self-identify with the term and may not have explicit aims to protect the environment (being motivated primarily by social justice concerns).[10]

Environmental defenders involved in environmental conflicts face a wide range of threats from governments, local elites, and other powers that benefit from projects that defenders oppose. Global Witness reported 1,922 murders of environmental defenders in 57 countries between 2002 and 2019, with indigenous people accounting for approximately one third of this total. Documentation of this violence is incomplete. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights reported that as many as one hundred environmental defenders are intimidated, arrested or otherwise harassed for every one that is killed.[11]



The adoption of environmentalist into a distinct political ideology led to the development of political parties called "green parties", typically with a leftist political approach to overlapping issues of environmental and social wellbeing.

Water protectors

Oceti Sakowin encampment at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests camps in North Dakota
Water protectors marching in Seattle
Members of the "Light Brigade" asserting their role as "Protectors" of the waters, during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests

Water protectors are activists, organizers, and cultural workers focused on the defense of the world's water and water systems. The water protector name, analysis and style of activism arose from Indigenous communities in North America during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Reservation, which began with an encampment on LaDonna Brave Bull Allard's land in April, 2016.[12][13]

Water protectors are similar to land defenders, but are distinguished from other environmental activists by this philosophy and approach that is rooted in an indigenous cultural perspective that sees water and the land as sacred.[14][15] This relationship with water moves beyond simply having access to clean drinking water, and comes from the beliefs that water is necessary for life and that water is a relative and therefore it must be treated with respect.[16] As such, the reasons for protection of water are older, more holistic, and integrated into a larger cultural and spiritual whole than in most modern forms of environmental activism, which may be more based in seeing water and other extractive resources as commodities.[17][18]

Historically, water protectors have been led by or composed of women;[19] in this way, it is comparable to the ecofeminist movement.[20]

Notable environmentalists

Sir David Attenborough in May 2003
Peter Garrett campaigning for the 2004 Australian federal election
Al Gore, 2007
Hunter Lovins, 2007
Sergio Rossetti Morosini, 2017
Phil Radford, 2011
Hakob Sanasaryan campaignning against illegal construction of a new ore-processing facility in Sotk, 2011
Greta Thunberg, 2018
Kevin Buzzacott (Aboriginal activist) in Adelaide 2014

Some of the notable environmentalists who have been active in lobbying for environmental protection and conservation include:



In recent years, there are not only environmentalists for natural environment but also environmentalists for human environment. For instance, the activists who call for "mental green space" by getting rid of disadvantages of internet, cable TV, and smartphones have been called "info-environmentalists".[23]

See also

Nancy Pelosi meets with the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize recipients – six individuals who have made a profound impact in their communities and throughout the world by fighting for environmental justice.


  1. ^ "environmentalism - Ideology, History, & Types". Encyclopedia Britannica. 23 July 2023.
  2. ^ Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, ed. (2005). Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd revised ed.). Oxford University klkPress. ISBN 978-0-19-861057-1.
  3. ^ a b Tesch, Danielle; Kempton, Willett (2004-01-01). "Who is an Environmentalist? The Polysemy of Environmentalist Terms and Correlated Environmental Actions". Journal of Ecological Anthropology. 8 (1): 67–83. doi:10.5038/2162-4593.8.1.4. ISSN 1528-6509.
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  9. ^ Scheidel, Arnim (July 2020). "Environmental conflicts and defenders: A global overview". Global Environmental Change. 63: 102104. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102104. PMC 7418451. PMID 32801483.
  10. ^ Verweijen, Judith (2021). "'Environmental defenders': the power / disempowerment of a loaded term" (PDF). In Menton, Mary (ed.). Environmental and Land Defenders: Deadly Struggles for Life and Territory. New York: Routledge. pp. 37–49. doi:10.4324/9781003127222-6. ISBN 9781003127222. S2CID 242629985.
  11. ^ Peter Bille Larsen; Philippe Le Billon; Mary Menton; José Aylwin; Jörg Balsiger; David Boyd; Michel Forst; Fran Lambrick; Claudelice Santos; Hannah Storey; Susan Wilding (2021). "Understanding and responding to the environmental human rights defenders crisis: The case for conservation action". Conservation Letters. 14 (3). doi:10.1111/conl.12777. S2CID 229390470.
  12. ^ Today, Indian Country (12 April 2021). "LaDonna Brave Bull Allard 'changed history'". Indian Country Today. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
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  17. ^ "Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, a 69 Year Old Who Walked Around the Great Lakes, Talks About the Water Docs International Festival - Shedoesthecity". Shedoesthecity. 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  18. ^ Whyte, Kyle Powys (2013). "Justice Forward: Tribes, Climate Adaptation and Responsibility". Climatic Change. 120 (3): 117–130. Bibcode:2013ClCh..120..517W. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0743-2. S2CID 149453106.
  19. ^ Dennis, Mary Kate; Bell, Finn McLafferty (2021-02-16). "Indigenous Women, Water Protectors, and Reciprocal Responsibilities". Social Work. 65 (4): 378–386. doi:10.1093/sw/swaa033. ISSN 0037-8046. PMID 33020844.
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