If you have followed my extensive writings about the "green world," you may have gotten the impression that "environment" and "environmentalist" have very little in common.
You are familiar with the word "ghetto." In today's parlance, a "ghetto" is an area of a modern city inhabited mostly by blacks. Actually, this is not at all what "ghetto" means. A ghetto was a place in most European cities where Jews were required to live. The key word here is required. Civil rights leaders during the sixties saw the economic and social isolation of America's blacks as analogous to the legal isolation of Jews in Europe. While nobody can quarrel with the analogy, their use of the word "ghetto" to describe predominately black areas carries with it the implication that there is legal sanction to the isolation. Since this is not true, in effect they changed the meaning of the word "ghetto." Civil rights leaders wanted to implant an image in the mind of America that equated the historic treatment of European Jewry with current treatment of American blacks. It obviously worked. Our language is dynamic - today, "ghetto" means exactly what civil rights leaders wanted it to mean. Unfortunately, the word has lost its original meaning so that it is now impossible to convey to a listener the concept of the original ghetto without adding a lengthy explanation.
Exactly the same thing is happening to the word "environmentalist." Whereas this word used to describe a person who was professionally concerned with studying the environment - just as a physicist studies physics, and an historian studies history - it is beginning to describe an extremist political activist whose interest focuses on the environment, and whose solutions to perceived problems include significant government involvement and - often - radical measures.
Fortunately, there still are classical environmentalists around. Admittedly, some of these also fit the "new" definition, but many quietly pursue their research in the classic scientific mold.
No rational individual would disagree that healthy change is good for our society. One can even argue for the occasional use of force - after all, we started with a revolution. Nevertheless, our modern society contains elegant mechanisms for bringing about needed change peacefully, without disruption.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is an environmental organization that totally understands this principle.
TNC works by identifying the species and ecosystems in greatest need of immediate protection, and determining areas that must be set aside to ensure their survival; protecting habitats and natural systems through direct land acquisition, by gift or purchase; managing for the long-term protection of species and ecosystems on more than 1,100 TNC-owned preserves in all 50 states, and encouraging compatible use of those sanctuaries by researchers, educators, and the public.
The point again: all TNC does is purchase land where there are endangered species or ecosystems - a simple, elegant solution to a complex problem!
TNC has over a half million members, including many of the nation's top corporations. Surprise! - corporations, and the men and women who run them, care, too! In Washington State, TNC recently purchased 1,432 acres of old-growth timber, 60 acres of native grassland, 40 acres of endangered mountain plants, 17 acres of marshland, and 206 acres of white-oak savannah. All of these acquisitions supplemented current holdings of 17,706 acres in Washington State, and 5,675,987 acres nationally.
It sure beats spiking trees!