Don’t be afraid to claim the term ‘environmentalist’
A number of Grist contributors have grumpily said things along the lines of, “I’m not an environmentalist,” or “I’m not sure I’m an environmentalist.”
Environmentalism comes in all flavors. Wanting to protect natural environments because they benefit humans is a perfectly valid form of environmentalism — in fact, I’d argue more valid than the “humans are evil, tapeworms are virtuous” variety. If you want to protect our world against the worst consequences of global warming, if you want clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and yes, some wilderness and wild left for the sake of your sanity, then you are an environmentalist.
Every now and then I will run into someone who says, “yes, I think women are fully human and should be treated as such. I believe in equal pay for equal work, anti-discrimination laws, anti-harassment laws. I think there are important ways in which women are not treated as fully human that have to be changed. But I’m not a feminist.” If you believe those things, you are a feminist. You are just buying into an anti-feminist stereotype. And not calling yourself a feminist won’t stop all mini-Limbaughs who dominate talk radio from calling you whatever the latest version of “feminazi” is. Similarly, if want to protect the environment, even for the most anthropocentric reasons in the world, claiming not to be environmentalist won’t protect you against being called names by those who think the ideal breakfast is fried spotted owl cooked over an open flame fueled by old-growth timber. So own the term “environmentalist.” Claim it proudly. Don’t let hate-mongers define it, or purity trolls monopolize it.
[Updated title to take out the damn 60s reference the editor put in.]