Who is an environmentalist? Are you? Am I?


Do we really have to call anyone an environmentalist? How is it different from being an environmental professional that I say I am? Mr A is an environmental professional and therefore is an environmentalist. Mr B is an environmentalist but not necessarily an environmental professional. Is that how it works?

If you imagine these as a venn diagram with three circles, there’s an overlap but are there Mr Cs who are neither like Mr A nor Mr B? Can You Call Yourself An Environmentalist And Still Eat Meat? As mentioned in this article, Amis Cameron, Director of a vegan school, has eventually come to believe that, “You can’t really call yourself an environmentalist if you’re still consuming animals. You just can’t.” Some attribute various environmental issues to the rising population. Can you call yourself an environmentalist if you have kids?‘ Sounds like a pro-environment but an anti-human question.

Identities are funny things because they define who we are, but our definitions of ourselves are often flawed. If you don’t go to church every Sunday, can you call yourself a Christian? If you sometimes sing along to songs with degrading lyrics, can you call yourself a feminist? If you sometimes drink out of plastic water bottles, can you call yourself an environmentalist? Of course you can. We are flawed, but our identities are still our identities. – Emily Barber in her article ‘What Does “Environmentalism” Really Mean?

Why is there a need to put labels on people? How do you define an environmentalist? Here are some definitions from the web. Collins Dictionary shows synonyms for environmentalist as ‘ecologist’, ‘conservationist’ and even ‘tree-hugger’ which is embarrassing for some. Would then someone who identifies as one have to define it every time?

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Am I a tree-hugger? I don’t remember hugging a tree although I’ve tried to climb one. Am I a conservationist? My ethics don’t allow to do that which does not cherish the human spirit. Am I an environmentalist? Not only do I care about the environment; but I also care about humans and animals. For me it is the three pillars of sustainability that make sense – people, planet, profit – not just planet alone. Am I an environmental services professional? This is what I do, I provide services for these three pillars to stand together.
Trying to climb a tree

How you choose to label yourself becomes an intimate part of who you are.Once you identify yourself with a particular group of people – whether it’s social, political, or religious – then you often begin to define the rest of your existence based on this label. You think, “I’m an X person, so that means I do things like A, B, C – because that’s what X people do.” Labeling yourself as part of a group feels good – as it gives you an immediate sense of belonging and identity. But it also limits you in many ways. – The Emotion Machine

The other day someone asked me if I was an environmentalist and I said that I am not. If labeling myself limits me, if it doesn’t free me, if it doesn’t entirely align with my beliefs, I don’t want to be labelled. Do you label yourself? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ― Gandhi

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