Environmentalism is a type of social movement or a broad philosophy that is geared towards the conservation of the environment and also seeks to improve the quality of the environment. This movement is mainly associated with the green color. From the perspective of social movement, environmentalism is concentrated on influencing the process of political education, activism, and lobbying to conserve the environment and also protect the natural resources as well as the ecosystems. The environment has also recognized the human being as part of the ecosystems and hence is mainly focused on three aspects that is the health, ecology, and human rights (Manes, 19).
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People who support this movement are called environmentalists and they seek to change public policies in ensuring that the government takes care of the environment. Apart from that they also embark on education programs to teach the public about taking care of the environment through taking care of the ecology, health, and human rights (Philip, 94).
The modern movement of environmentalism can be rooted back in the Industrial Revolution. But from the time history started being recorded there were various lobbying for the preservation of the environment a good example being different writing and drawing in ancient times in the Middle East that addressed the plight of the pollution of the environment. In Europe King Edward I who reigned in England in the 1260s and 1270s prohibited the burning of sea-coal in London in the year 1272 and this was after the smoke emitted from the burning brought about problems in London (Ramachandra, 120).
The historical background of the environmental movement can be rooted in Europe during the Industrial Revolution as this era was also responsible for laying a foundation for the pollution of the environment as we know it today. Many industries adopt the mass production system of industry and this brought about the rise of environmental pollution because the industries were using a lot of fossil fuel especially coal and oil. The industries also emitted a lot of chemicals due to the use of these fossil fuels and also there were other chemical emissions when the industries had produced goods and there were waste chemicals that had to be emitted. In addition, there was a lot of human waste that had not been treated and it was growing by the day hence bringing about large-scale pollution of the air. The pioneering environmental laws were the British Alkali Acts of 1863 which were set to regulate the degree to which the air was being polluted by the emerging industries (Paul, 152).
Environmentalism rose from the movement of amenity which a counter-reaction to industrialization was because the emerging of big cities deteriorated the levels of pollution and this meant that the human beings were subjected to very poor living conditions. In addition, water and air continued to be polluted at elevated levels. In 1739 Benjamin Franklin and the residents of Philadelphia were the pioneers of the movement in the United States when citing public rights lobbied for the Assembly of Pennsylvanian to stop dumping waste and also petitioned for the removal of tanneries from the State’s industrial district. In the 1800s there were heightened levels of the movement in the United States with lobbyists arguing the importance of conserving the natural resources that were found in the west of the country and the key individuals in this activism were John Muir and Henry David Thoreau (Dowie, 140).
In the 20th Century, environmentalism continued to grow and this was in the perspective of recognition and popularity and this was precipitated by the fact that the last Passenger Pigeon had died and the American Bison had also been marked as an endangered species. President Woodrow Wilson founded the National Park Service as a response to the calls of environmentalists. Another important landmark was the 1949 Aldo Leopold book A Sand Country Almanac which explained why humankind should respect the environment in a more intense approach and why to harm the environment was unethical on the part of humankind (Sheldon, 94).
Mahatma Gandhi influenced the establishment of the Chipko Movement in India in the 1970s and this movement with the help of Gandhi lobbied peacefully against deforestation and they did this by hugging trees which led to the coinage of the term “tree hugger.” They had a very effective slogan which was ‘ecology is a permanent economy.’ By then other notable groups had been formed and the most influential were The Friends of Earth and Greenpeace. Environmentalism has evolved over the years and now it is concerned with major issues in the world which include Global Warming and Genetic engineering which have brought about major controversies in the modern world (Paul, 152).
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Environmental issues in the Third World Countries
The environmental condition in third-world countries is very poor compared to the developed nations. This can be attributed to the fact that there are not sufficient laws in the countries that address the issue of pollution and other environmental problems. This is because creating environmental legislation would be disastrous to the economies of third-world countries. The developed countries take advantage of this and in this respect, they send some of their sub-nationals corporations to the third world countries and this means that the hazardous emissions from these companies affect the third world countries. Apart from that fact the countries also dump some of their hazardous waste and garbage in the third world countries. It is also heartbreaking to find that some of the companies that produce chemicals that have been outlawed in the developed countries find a market in the third world countries and this plays a very major role in ensuring that the environmental problems of the third world countries continue to escalate. This is because the governments would not afford to lose the companies from foreign investors as it would jeopardize the livelihoods of the countries’ citizens who are working hard to make a living. These countries are mainly in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Countries in these regions are the major victims of these environmental inequalities. In addition, the undeveloped countries in these regions also suffer from the fact that they have abject poverty, unstable government, war and this means that the rights and health of human beings are subjected to very low standards. Some of the major environmental problems in these countries include deforestation, water pollution, Air pollution, soil erosion, and desertification (de Steiger, 86).
Poor countries and environmentalism
World environmentalism has affected the world in major aspects and one of the factors that are rising a lot of controversies is the effect of environmentalism on third world countries. Many people in the third world country are living in abject poverty and this can be seen by the fact that some of the poorest regions have the highest percentage of their population living under a dollar per day a good example being the Sub-Saharan Africa Region which is termed as the poorest region in the world. The state of the environment in these regions is pathetic and this can be rooted in the fact that these regions lack the technology and resources to improve their environment. Lack of such amenities like natural gas and electricity to the vast majority of these people lead them to burn wood to get the energy to cook and also they burn other materials that greatly play a part in degrading their environment. With a lack of technology comes the cost of environmental degradation. In this region, there are still poor health facilities of the people hence the low level of environmentalism advocacy in these countries (Sheldon, 227).
The condition of environmentalism in the third world countries has been brought about by lack of resources and also most importantly lack of the technical know-how and the technology which would help in preserving their environment. Once the environment is purely degraded, the lives and the health of the population of these countries would be very much at risk. This can explain why the life expectancy of these countries is so low compared to the life expectancy of the developed countries. It can also be noted that many developed countries attained that status at the expense of the developing countries and this is by taking up their natural resources through colonialism and unfair trade arrangements (David).
Rich countries and rich companies have also played a major role in reducing the environmental condition in third world countries. This is because many third world countries are being used by the developed countries as dump sites and also the countries’ big companies open up branches in the third world country and these companies emit a lot of poisonous substances hence playing a major role in degrading the environment of the third world countries. One factor that greatly brings about this issue is that the poor country is faced with the dilemma of whether to take up a good environment and in the process live with a degraded environment or whether to choose a cleaner environment over food. In many countries, food is a paramount necessity and many countries opt to live in a degraded and unhealthy environment rather than lack food. The developed countries take this opportunity to provide them with the income to buy food in exchange for them to allow their rich companies to open new branches in their countries. This means that the country will get income from the taxes and employment but in the meantime, their environment is deteriorating due to the presence of these companies. This has led to a situation in which environmentalists from all over the world are advocating for a change in this and asking the developed countries to consider taking up some responsibility and taking up some of the companies (Philip, 119).
It is in this effect that the third world countries’ environmentalism is advocating for increased education so that it can facilitate the incorporation of technology in fighting the environmental problems of the countries. Better education will help in ensuring that the populations are also educated on such issues as health and human rights and hence the environmentalism movement in these countries will have a positive effect on these countries. The environmentalism movement in these countries is also asking for the transfer of some of the major developed countries in the world to consider the transfer of various technologies to these countries without exploiting these countries. Some basic countries are not easily accessible to third world countries and this has brought about environmental degradation in these countries (Manes, 142).
The fact of the matter is that the poor countries know the problems that are associated with this current state of affairs and it is in this respect that they are asking some world-renown organizations to help them in eliminating this problem from their countries. Some developed countries’ governments are also aware of the predicament that this means to the world and hence they are also working together to change the current state of affairs. Championing to this end is the United Nations which is calling on the developed countries to change this current state of affairs and in its effort to end this; the United Nations is being helped by various international organizations. One of the ways they have achieved their objectives is by making the transnational companies pay for the waste dumps they put in the third world countries. The organizations also enlist developed countries who will donate to the clean-up efforts of the third world countries’ environment (de Steiger, 126).
Impacts to developed countries
With the current environmentalism movement which is being felt all over the world, the developed countries although they seem to not to benefit very from this they have several benefits as well. One of the benefits a country like Canada has to reap from the modern environmental movement is that the environment of the country can improve very much. Even though some of its companies will have to work in the country and there will be reduced dumping on the developing countries, if the country adopts the right environmental policies, the environmental degradation will cease. This can be attributed to the fact that the country has all the technological and the education basis to counter the looming environmental problems that could be felt by the country (David).
Another impact will be that the country will have to adopt green marketing and this can be very beneficial to the country as well as to the world at large. At this time of global warming, the tendency of the country to adopt green marketing policies are very beneficial to the world as they are seen to be fighting the global environmental crisis. The global environmental crisis has been fueled by the developed countries not adopting the right policies in their industries and once the environmentally friendly policies, the world will benefit as a whole. Other factors that have contributed to this kind of situation are whereby the countries are seen to be advocating for other means of energy sources that will reduce the dependency on fossil fuels. These adoptions include the use of renewable sources of energy as well the use of wind energy. If the country adopts these technologies, it will benefit by selling the technology to underdeveloped countries in the world. This will also play a part in elevating the economy of the country. Hence countries like Canada though will be hit by negative impacts will also have advantageous impacts (John, 140).
David Adam, “Green Idealists Fail to Make Grade, Say Study: The Guardian 2008.
de Steiger, J.E. (2006). The Origins of Modern Environmental Thought. The University of Arizona Press. Tucson.
Dowie, Mark, (1995). Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995.
John McCormick, (1995). The Global Environmental Movement, London: John Wiley.
Manes, Christopher, (1990). Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co.
Paul Hawken, (2007). Blessed Unrest, Penguin Books Ltd, United States of America.
Paul Wapner, (1996). Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics, Albany: State University of New York.
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Philip Shabecoff, (2003). A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement, Island Press; Revised Edition.
Ramachandra Guha, (1999). Environmentalism: A Global History, London, Longman.
Sheldon Kamieniecki, editor, (1993). Environmental Politics in the International Arena: Movements, Parties, Organizations, and Policy, Albany: State University of New York Press.