By Asha Kreiling
I’m no John Muir, but I do recycle! Am I an environmentalist? I’d like to say so, but what does that even mean — to be an environmentalist? I think it means many different things to many different people. To some, it means doing simple things to reduce one’s impact on the planet like taking short showers, recycling, and buying eco-friendly products. To others, it means protesting against Monsanto and ExxonMobil or chaining oneself to an old oak tree to prevent logging.
To me, each of these actions and everything in between define what environmentalism is: an ideology, a social movement, a way of life. With the diversity of issues environmentalists concern themselves with — whether deforestation, GMOs or waste — and with the various levels of activism we can take — be they practical or radical — envisioning cohesiveness among us can be difficult. Despite our diversity, however, environmentalists share a common consciousness and a common goal of reducing our impact on the planet.
Being an environmentalist starts with awareness. Some individuals grow up immersed in nature and are raised by earth-loving parents, and instinctively become passionate about protecting the natural world. Others develop a sense of environmental awareness through experiences such as witnessing the clear-cutting of forests or through knowledge gained by simply reading books and articles on environmental issues. Environmentalists become conscious of and concerned about the ways each of their actions affect the environment and the future of the planet.
I find myself thinking about environmental impact in everything I do wherever I go. When I buy something, I consider how much waste it will produce, and the resources and energy that were used to make it. When I throw something away, I wonder how long it will take to decompose or if it ever will. I think about the coal being burned when I turn on my lights (well, sometimes), and how much carbon dioxide I emit when I drive my car. It’s no gift, this awareness. I am often impatient and frustrated with the way people disregard the effects of their actions on the environment, and their thoughtless consuming and polluting. However, I am no defeatist.
With awareness, environmentalists take action. It’s one thing to be concerned about environmental sustainability. It’s another thing to do something about it. Environmentalists neither spectate nor condone environmental harm; they make a difference or at least, they try. Environmentalists are active in taking steps to minimize negative impacts on the environment and other living beings — and not because they have to, but because they care. Some make small, personal efforts to lighten one’s daily footprint, while others make environmental protection their mission in life. Engaging in any level of environmental action is meaningful and crucial.
So, yeah, I recycle and I compost, too. I buy my healthy, organic food, and my all natural hippie cosmetics, and I ride a bike whenever I can; but I crave larger scale change. Chaining myself to a tree isn’t exactly my style, but I have dedicated myself to inspiring environmental sustainability in my career. I also attempt to educate and make people give a hoot about the planet with every chance I get. Being an environmentalist isn’t easy, but doing something, on any scale or with any impact, is better than nothing at all.