“The goal of life is living in agreement with nature.”
Zeno of Elea, Greek philosopher
Making history to safeguard the future
Now more than ever, environmentalism and ecological preservation are critical human endeavors, and over the past weeks and months, we’ve written extensively about what each of us can do in our own corner of wilderness to take care of the Earth as a whole.
However, despite it being a somewhat controversial topic, we feel it’s time to talk about the environmental movement itself and give credit where it’s due to the pioneers and modern frontline of a philosophy meant to serve us all.
First of all, let’s clear up any confusion between direct action and protest since they are often used synonymously. Direct action concerns citizens using what power they have to affect change, usually in a non-violent context. It might include boycotting, sit-ins, or, as extinction rebellion have recently demonstrated, traffic disruption.
Protest, on the other hand, concerns using campaigns of persistent communication, whether those be live gatherings or mass letter writing, to appeal to more powerful individuals – like politicians or corporations – to affect change themselves.
A movement is born
Although Western societies were likely introduced to environmentalism through Rachel Carson’s seminal Silent Spring, the desire to protect the natural world from human meddling existed long before.
In 1720, a group of Bishnoi Hindus stood against the then Maharaja of Jodhpur, a province in northern India, who had planned to fell an entire forest to clear space for his new palace.
Fast forward to 1892 when John Muir founded the Sierra Club in San Francisco, one of the first non-profit conservation groups in the United States. Muir is popularly known as ‘The father of the national parks’ in the U.S. and was an iconoclast in his own time, making his living as an author, philosopher, botanist, and zoologist.
The 1960s rolled around and during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the love generation, Silent Spring was published.
Rachel Carson’s book, which exposed the damage caused by chemical fertilizers and the wider devastation of corporate expansion on the natural world, triggered an earthquake in the public consciousness.
The global environmental movement was born.
A legacy of resistance
Today, we face much greater challenges with regard to our ecosystem, however, we also have more powerful tools at our disposal to overcome them.
The rise of social media and the internet has meant that disparate groups of people can coordinate far more effectively to take part in direct action events to raise awareness of climate change and, hopefully, force governments and corporations to take action to prevent it.
Examples of this include Extinction Rebellion’s Insulate Britain campaign whereby activists blocked major motorways to raise awareness of the impact of fuel inefficiency in British homes as well as fossil fuels in general.
While many disagreed with these actions given the inconvenience they caused so many, it’s critical to remember that, as with the Civil Rights Movement, direct action only becomes necessary when governments fail to take action.
Another homegrown direct action campaign occurred last year when activists stormed the Barclays bank headquarters in Northampton. Before being dispersed by police, they managed to douse the famous blue signage with fake oil in protest of the bank’s investments in the fossil fuel industry and other major polluters.
What can you do?
Although we may not all agree with the methods of XR or other protest groups, it’s probably fair to assume that we’d like to help prevent climate change if we can. While massive direct action or strapping yourself to an oil rig might be beyond your means, there are small ways that you can support the fight against climate change.
First of all, if you can drive less do, every bike ride, walk, or even bus journey will be appreciated by both the planet and your doctor – maybe not that last one!
Next, reduce your meat consumption. Animal agriculture is one of the largest polluters on earth and is the leading cause of rainforest destruction and habitat loss. In fact, every beef burger you don’t eat saves enough freshwater to supply a month’s worth of showers!
Finally, try to be as energy and water conscious as you can be, turn off lights when you leave the room, and shut down your computer when you log out for the day. These are small contributions but, when scaled to a lifetime of conservation for millions of people (perhaps I’m overestimating our readership?), they add up to a massive impact in terms of preserving our planet.
Next time we’ll be exploring a new type of architecture that seeks to marry work and living spaces with the natural world and we hope you’ll join us then. As always, thanks for reading.