White smoke coming out of industrial buildings

The Rise of Environmentalism

White smoke coming out of industrial buildings

The Rise of Environmentalism

Environmentalism is a movement that we’re all probably familiar with now. We’re used to seeing protests and school strikes on tv. But environmentalism didn’t start out like that. It began as a much smaller and quieter movement.


Environmentalism began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in a movement called conservationism. This was a network of groups made up of upper-class men who enjoyed hunting, fishing and hiking. They weren’t interested in conserving the world as a whole, unlike climate activists today. They just wanted to conserve little areas that they loved by turning them into National parks or game reserves. This had a downside, as this meant that indigenous people lost their right to hunt and fish on these grounds.

Ecological Writers

Lots of climate activists were inspired by writers in the mid 20th century. An American, Aldo Leopold, wrote a book called ‘A Sand County Almanac’ which was a key part of the second wave of environmentalism. The book called for humans to become plain citizens of the earth rather than conquerors of it. This book had a huge impact, but it still didn’t slow down the rapid progress of industrialization. A huge turning point occurred in 1962 when Rachel Carson, a scientist and writer, published her book, ‘Silent Spring’. The book was about the use of chemicals to kill insects, and the damage that these insecticides did to bird and animal life. These writings inspired the next generation to start questioning the treatment of the natural world, and to start doing something about it.

Environmental Defence Fund

One of the new groups started in the years after ‘Silent Spring’ was the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF). This organisation was founded by a group of scientists and lawyers in 1967. Together they filed a lawsuit which caused the United States to ban insecticides. This ban caused many birds who had suffered from the chemicals to recover.

This group was the start of the rise of environmental law. Lawyers began working with companies to reduce their emissions and find more eco-friendly ways to buy and sell.

Current Activists

Which brings us to today. The youth are the climate activists of the 21st century. There are teenage activists all over the globe organising school strikes and protests. They are delivering speeches and writing books. They are winning grants to make their schools eco-friendlier. They are even filing lawsuits against huge polluting companies. We are living in the age of environmentalism, and it’s our turn to take part.


I based this blog on Chapter 5 of the book ‘How To Change Everything’ by Naomi Klein and Rebecca Stefoff. I got it from my auntie and I am finding it really interesting. If you liked this blog, you should definitely check out the book.

See you soon! Ailsa x

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