“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Mankind has been aware of its interdependence on nature for thousands of years. The environment impacts our lives in every possible way and we know it. From the early Vedic sages to the Taoists, from the Mesopotamians to the ancient Greeks, everyone knew how important it is to protect the environment. The Native Americans are still immensely respectful of nature and the bounty it provides. Still many of us remain indifferent to nature even today. We are willing to devastate Mother Nature to fulfill our materialistic needs. Take the Maharaja of Jodhpur for instance. In 1720, he slaughtered the Bishnoi Hindus of Khejrali just because they stood up to him to protect the forest that he wiped out in order to build his palace. Indeed, the Bishnoi Hindus can be hailed as the first environmental activists.
A growing awareness of the environment swept through the Western World as well in the 18th century. Benjamin Franklin advocated the right to clean air and water. George Catlin fought to protect the Indigenous land in America. Jeremy Benthu talked about animal rights in his An Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation. Thomas Mathus made us aware of the growing threat of overpopulation. Jean Baptiste Fourier warned us about global warming. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden urged us to adopt a minimalist lifestyle and go back to nature. George Perkins Marsh warned us of climate change in his Man and Nature. In 1892, John Muir established the Sierra Club to protect the wilderness. More and more people started joining the fight to protect the environment. There came a time when US senator, Gaylord Nelson, organized the first Earth Day in 1970. Even today, we celebrate Earth Day every April 22.
Let us take a moment and appreciate all the environmental warriors who fought and are still fighting to save our environment.
Here is a list of a few eminent environmentalists for your perusal.
Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer. Many hail him to be the first environmentalist. Born in an affluent noble German family, Humboldt was a restless soul since childhood. His journey into the wilds of South America finally brought him peace. Humboldt believed that humans could upend the balance of nature through their indiscriminate exploitation. His travels taught him that life was intrinsically connected to nature. Man wielded the power to destroy it. He saw how our reckless destruction had the potential to irrevocably alter ecosystems. Humboldt underscored the importance of understanding the laws of nature. He believed that as humans it is our duty to protect the environment.
Gifford Pinchot has an unusual story. The son of a timber baron, his very livelihood left him with no choice but to wreak havoc in the forests. He deeply regretted the destruction of woodlands. He did everything to atone for his ways. After majoring in forestry at Yale University, Pinchot was entrusted with the responsibility to develop a plan to manage western America’s forests. Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as the head of the U.S. Forest Service. He did not shy away from butting heads with John Muir or facing the condemnation of timber companies. Gifford Pinchot dedicated his life to conserving forests.
David Brower was the Sierra Club’s first executive director. He worked tirelessly to preserve the wilderness. Under Brower, the Sierra Club achieved s number of environmental victories. Its membership also increased from a mere 2,000 to 77,000. After his stint at the Sierra Club, he headed the establishment of a number of other groups like Friends of the Earth, the Earth Island Institute, and the League of Conservation Voters.
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was a celebrated scientist and painter. Born to slaves, Carver worked hard to radically change his life. He could make dyes, fuel, and plastic among other things from a mere peanut. Astoundingly, he lusted 300 uses for peanuts and many other uses for soybeans, pecans, and potatoes. It was his efforts that propelled the popularity of peanuts. His advocacy of crop rotation was ground-breaking. George Washington Carver’s contributions to agriculture seals his position as a stalwart agriculturalist.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was a renowned advocate of wilderness preservation. Despite his fondness for hunting, he loved nature. When he was New York’s governor, he banned the use of feathers as accessories. This way, he wanted to prevent the poaching of birds. As president, he promoted soil and water conservation, barricaded huge tracts of wilderness, and established more than 200 national parks, national forests, national monuments, and bird and wildlife sanctuaries. His love for animals was legendary.
Gaylord Nelson is the man responsible for Earth Day. The environmental activist and politician was instrumental in passing many landmark environmental legislations after becoming the governor of Wisconsin. The Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act among others were legalized due to his tireless endeavors. He was the one who came up with the idea of the national trails system. The Appalachian Trail is a fruit of his labor. His efforts in creating the Outdoor Recreation Acquisition Program saved one million acres of parkland.
Mal Vickers, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Australian climatologist, Penny Whetton, is an ardent advocate of the climate. Ever since 1990, she has been fighting to make us aware of climate change. Her research, as part of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, adds credence to her views. One of her reports even won the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2017.
The environment should be valued by all of us. If nature is destroyed, life on earth would perish. We, humans, would perish. Before such dire circumstances arise, we should mend our worldly ways. We should endeavor to do everything in our power to leave a green legacy for future generations.
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One thought on “Green Warriors: 7 Eminent Environmentalists”
This completely changed the idea I had about Teddy Roosevelt. I hope we can all grab inspiration from all of them to avoid the climatic catastrophe.