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The Green Crusade
The environmental crusade has embarked upon an extensive odyssey since its integration into the raging current of modern society, particularly since the summit of the twentieth century. The debate is a multi-faceted tapestry that has inexorably intertwined itself into a wide scope of societal disputes ranging from the extent of humans’ role in ecological degradation to political philosophies concerning the environmental movement’s restrictions on individualism.
In particular, one of the primary features of the issue revolves around the controversy of environmental welfare versus human interests. Adversaries of the environmental movement denounce it as a fallacious ideology solely intended to encroach upon individual rights and modern dogma concerning humans’ role in the degradation of the environment. Oftentimes, supporters of this outlook promote a more conservative course of action in which society’s environmental policy gradually evolves while human interests are favored over ecological preservation. Conversely, environmental advocates maintain that humans should strive to construct a more ecologically friendly society that emphasizes the restoration and preservation of the global environment. In light of this intuitive ideology, modern civilization should lay emphasis on the restoration of the global environment in order to preserve the intricate and remarkable ecosystem that millions of species, including humans, thrive in— the planet Earth.
The opposing position of the debate is ostensibly characterized via a conservative outlook of the environment in which humans are deemed as the superior species of the Earth, and as such they should have a divine birthright to expend the Earth’s natural resources without government regulations for the greater good of humanity.
Accordingly, numerous advocates of this standpoint classify the environmental movement as a “scare campaign,” and its purpose is apparently to “create fear and hysteria by proclaiming an inevitable apocalypse if [humans] continue to use materials, products, and processes that have been serving mankind for decades” (Moser). Other adversaries of the movement claim that the environmentalists are attempting to “save the planet from imaginary threats” (Barbour). By proclaiming that conservation is paramount to society, the environmental crusade poses a demoralizing threat to the conservative ideology. Consequently, the conservationist philosophy is dehumanized as a hazard to humanity in that it is a hoax that clearly just wants to disrupt the equilibrium of modern civilization. Yet, what these challengers fail to address is the incontrovertible investigations of the scientific community that expose humanity’s excessive use of fossil fuels and the incumbent destruction of rainforests as a central reason of unprecedented climate change. By ludicrously proclaiming that humans play no part in the environmental deterioration of the Earth, these conservative ideologists undermine the rationality of their own argument.
Antagonists of the movement feel that “man’s ingenuity, which is at the heart of individual freedom of expression and development of ideas, is what the environmentalists seek to restrict and/or replace with a system of government controls” (Moser). Many government organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempt to reconcile human interests with environmental safety by enforcing parameters that restrict activities such as the extent to which offshore drilling for oil takes place, and other environmental hazards such as air pollution. Recently, considerable controversy has erupted over the debate of drilling for oil offshore and on the mainland due to contemporary environmental disasters such as the BP Gulf oil spill. Several opponents of environmental government agencies including petroleum giants such as BP, Chevron, and Shell echo concerns that freedom guaranteed by the first constitutional amendment is limited by such government regulations. In actuality, the ultimate goal of these petty corporations is solely to make large profits—environmental welfare is merely a trivial issue.
The environmental movement itself is a labyrinth of diverse philosophies that range from extremist reactionaries to pro-active liberals. Some activists, such as the “back-to-nature” preservationists, espouse that the natural world should be left alone by humans and not exploited for commercial use, while others contend that a more realistic pre-emptive stance ought to be taken in which modern technology and industry should be utilized to restore the environment whilst human interests benefit as well. However, all constituents agree on the fact that the state of the degrading environment necessitates aid from humanity.
Early environmentalists “failed to move the broader public” because they “rejected technology, business, and prosperity in favor of returning to a simpler way of life” (Steffen). This reactionary stance on halting environmental degradation is impractical in an industrialized society, and it hardly appeals to the middle and lower classes of society. Based on this particular philosophy the general public began to formulate aversion towards the environmental movement as an impractical crusade buoyed by the scheming upper class. This early back-to-nature ideology resembles a bio-regionalist dream of a small human population leaving nature alone, but what these naturalists need to realize is that “the world is becoming more densely populated, not less; more urbanized, not less. Most important of all, human beings are exerting ever more—not less—power in nature, having a greater impact on ecosystems” (Anderson). With a mounting population of over six billion people, the Earth’s capacity is being strained. Humans continue to pollute the atmosphere with detrimental toxins from industrialized factories and machines without regard to caustic effects on the steadily deteriorating environment, and the destruction of thousands of ecosystems occurs daily. Consequently, millions of animal species are either extinct or endangered and the planet’s climate endures drastic changes throughout the world. Although the majority of these problems are also augmented by natural causes, human exploitation of the environment and unabated utilization of natural resources is the fundamental basis of the existing ecological situation.
Figure 1 illustrates the devastation of the polar ice cap on the Arctic Ocean since 1979. The deterioration of the ice cap has progressed as far as twenty percent in the last few decades. Studies indicate that arctic species native to the Arctic Circle decline annually and the polar bear population approaches near extinction. The modern controversy of global warming entered the spectrum of global issues, and this theory forebodes further destruction of the polar ice cap that plays a critical role in sustaining the Earth’s climate at equilibrium.
In a recent global ecological assessment conducted by the U.N., called a Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE), five major types of ecosystems were studied and “many of the statistics were staggering: half the world’s wetlands have been lost in the past century; 58% of coral reefs are imperiled by human activity; 80% of grasslands are suffering from soil degradation; 20% of drylands are in danger of becoming deserts; and groundwater is being depleted almost everywhere” (Linden). Contrary to claims made by the adversaries of environmentalism, PAGE ascertains the fact that forces other than natural processes are affecting the deterioration of the ecosystem. Since the start of human industrialization and human exploitation of natural resources such as fossil fuels and trees, the environment has deteriorated to an unimaginable scale. Countless ecosystems including the Florida Everglades and the Amazon Rainforest are now only shadows of their former glory. If the planet continues to decompose at the current rate, even humans will not have a place to call home.
The modern proactive stance on environmentalism promotes a more logical solution that “embraces environmentalism’s concerns but rejects its worn-out answers” (Steffen). The solution provided by this philosophy is to build a society that concedes to human interests, but should simultaneously promote a more eco-friendly civilization built on a radically green platform that utilizes renewable energy sources instead of exploiting fossil fuels. The driving force of this energy solution is the fact that fossil fuels do not exist in infinite amounts and they contribute to environmental deterioration. As alternatives, renewable resources such as “wind turbines, solar arrays, wave-power flotillas, small hydroelectric generators, geothermal systems, and even bioengineered algae” are suggested (Steffen). Modern civilization should strive to detach itself from the primary energy source of fossil fuels, and move towards new sources such as nuclear or solar energy. In doing so, the planet’s environment would be relieved of the widespread pollution that has plagued it since humanity’s discovery of industrialization.
Although there are numerous efforts to endorse environmental awareness and a new eco-friendly civilization, not enough people have been answering the call of the wild. Humans should learn to accept the fact that they must place the safety of the environment ahead of their own interests. Instead of continuing to harm the environment by way of exploitation of fossil fuels and forests, humans need to construct a society that embraces environmentally friendly technologies and resources. Unfortunately, “an ecosystem’s intricate, interdependent webs of life are hard to restore once they have become frayed” (Linden). Humanity should not become discouraged if immediate results are not apparent for their efforts of restoration. Modern society should transcend its petty personal interests, and look to a brighter, environmentally healthy planet.
Anderson, Walter Truett. “Technology and Modern Industry Must Be Used to Preserve the
.” Opposing Viewpoints: The Environment. Ed. William Dudley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001.Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 10 Dec. 2010<http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do>
Barbour, Scott. “The Environmental Movement Is Harmful.” Opposing Viewpoints Digests: The
Environment. Ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Critical Thinking. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 10 Dec. 2010 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do>
Linden, Eugene. "The Global Environment Is Deteriorating." Opposing Viewpoints: The
Environment. Ed. William Dudley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 24 Feb. 2011 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do>
Moser, Thomas A. "Environmental Activism Restricts Individual Freedom." Opposing
Viewpoints: The Environment. Ed. Louise Gerdes. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 24 Feb. 2011 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do>
Saunders, Julia, Alec Kenilvort, Sandy Curth, and Gabi Camiccia. Polar Ice Caps Melting.
Digital image. Polar Bears and Global Warming. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://drake.marin.k12.ca.us/academics/rock/Bears.htm>.
Steffen, Alex. "The New Green Movement Will Upgrade Our Civilization." Current
Controversies: The Green Movement. Ed. Debra A. Miller. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. SRCX. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 24 Feb. 2011 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do>
Zeff, Robin Lee. Environmental Action Groups. 1st ed. United States: Chelsea House, 1994.
Print. Earth At Risk.