Over the years, environmentalism has become symbolic of environmental protection, environmental science, environmental activism, environmental advocacy and environmental justice. We often use words like “conservation” and “preservation” when discussing protecting the environment. Commonly used interchangeably, many think of these words as synonyms, when, in reality, they are not.
Most Americans know little of the origins of the environmental movement. In the early 1900s, two environmental ideologies emerged. President Teddy Roosevelt is considered the father of the environmental conservation movement. Environmental conservation is managing and protecting natural resources, such as wildlife and habitats, to maintain ecological integrity and ensure sustainability for future generations. John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, practiced environmental preservation. Environmental preservation is defined as protecting the environment from the harmful effects of human activity.
In practice, the difference can be summed up into one word: sustainability. For example, conserving a forest typically involves sustainable logging practices to minimize deforestation. Preservation would include protecting part or all of the forest from human development. Those who live off the land typically are conservationists, while those who benefit are environmentalists.
Many believe today’s society has moved from sound environmental conservation to unstable environmental preservation practices. At home, we only have to examine the controversy involving offshore windmills. To preserve the environment, the benefits of offshore windmills outweigh the connection between avian and marine mammal deaths or the displacement of our commercial fishing industry.
Recently, on the TV series “Yellowstone,” this divide made popular entertainment when Kevin Costner, in a conversation with an environmental preservationist, stated, “To plant quinoa or sorghum or whatever the hell it is you eat? You kill everything on the ground and under it. You kill every snake, every frog, every mouse, mole, vole, worm, quail … you kill them all. So I guess the only real question is: How cute does an animal have to be before you care if it dies to feed you?”
One fine body…