The Etymology of Environmentalist



[ɪnˌvʌɪrənˈmɛnt(ə)lɪst, ɛnˌvʌɪrənˈmɛnt(ə)lɪst]

environmentalists (plural noun)

a person who is concerned about protecting the environment.

synonyms: conservationist · preservationist · ecologist · green · nature-lover · eco-activist · eco-nut · ecofreak · tree hugger

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

I wear my label like a badge of honour, yet despite this I struggle with the term. It’s a mouthful. It has the word “mentalist” in it. It almost implies extremism. I have often said to others that I am an environmentalist and been met with hostility… “oh you are one of THOSE are you?”.

Just look at the synonyms above. The word conjures up images of tree huggers that don’t bathe and chain themselves to things in protest (and there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s your bag).

But it shouldn’t imply extremism or negativity. Environmentalists are sensible. Despite any notion of altruism, protecting the environment for the sake of, well… the environment (however genuine this may be), the reality is, to be concerned with the environment is to be concerned with the fate of human kind.

We. Need. It.

As a species we are so intrinsically linked with our surroundings and so incredibly dependant upon them no matter how much some amongst us feel that disconnect. The environment provides us with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the raw materials from which we weave our tapestry of commercialism.

When it boils down to it our ethics, our morals, our systems of politics and economics (whilst important) are all social constructs. We are merely highly evolved and adaptable animals. But animals none the less.

Yes we are fortunate enough to have won the evolutionary lottery being bipedal, big-brained and having opposable thumbs all at the same time, but just because we can build ourselves little boxes to live in does not separate us from the rest of the environment.

In an ideal world there would be no need for the word environmentalist. Just humans…

Homo sapiens.

Animals that can live in every biome because we have evolved a degree of smarts. Animals that are able to regulate their impact on the planet because they recognise it’s importance. Animals that interact with their ecosystems in a meaningful, respectful and balanced manner…

Such a utopia probably will never exist, humans are greedy and creatures of habit after all, but a girl can dream.

4 thoughts on “The Etymology of Environmentalist

  1. Found my way here through Twitter, and have never thought of the “mentalist” part, but it really makes sense about the extremism and negativity. What great food for thought. Wish we as humans could interact with their ecosystems with care and respect. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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