Environmental sceptics

If you consider yourself one of these, you may the belief that statements made by environmentalists and the environmental scientists who support them are either false or exaggerated for scientific or political gains. You may argue that the extent of harm caused by human activities is less certain than the scientists and scientific bodies claim. You may also believe that its far too early to have restrictions based on the evidence we are seeing now, and anyhow what can your small contribution help towards stopping it. Further discussion is needed before billions are spent, taxes rise, and lifestyles change. Some of you may even think that the whole thing is a hoax. Unfortunately, the consensus is clear, climate change is happening, and human activity may or may not be adding to it. Environmental scepticism exists alongside broader debates about climate change and environmental issues. It is essential to engage in informed discussions while considering the balance between progress and environmental protection. If you are relaxed about the environmental crises and have a hands-off approach to climate change and environmental issues, things still may get out of control or escalate.

Sociological studies  have shown that environmental scepticism stems from insufficient education and self-assessed environmental knowledge, religious and conservative values, lack of trust in general society and science, and other concerns competing with environmental concern. Education and self-assessed knowledge are more effective in reducing such scepticism.

Environmental Activists

If you consider yourself one of these types of people, you are a part of a bunch which have been around for an extraordinarily long time and were the instigators of Earth Day back in 1970. Some of you may think, as the climate crises heightens and populations and countries start to understand the consequences of political and industrial inaction, sweeping action is the order of the day. TV, radio, and social media constantly show the mobilisation of environmental activists in imaginative ways, and they play a crucial role in raising awareness about climate change and advocating urgent action. However, feelings toward them can vary widely based on individual perspectives and how much the action taken interferes with you as a person, with your family and on your lifestyle. Many appreciate environmental activists for their dedication and passion. They recognise that these activists are working tirelessly to address a global crisis. You may admire their courage, resilience, and commitment to pushing for systemic change. Environmental activists often inspire others to act.

Some individuals slate environmental activists, especially when their methods involve civil disobedience or disruptive actions. Sceptics may question the effectiveness of rallies, protests, or direct actions. They might argue that individual efforts alone cannot solve complex issues like climate change.

Media tends to focus on the young climate leaders we are seeing today, but there are many older activists making significant contributions. The movement includes a diverse age range. Older seasoned activists draw inspiration from earlier movements (such as civil rights and anti-war protests) and collaborate with younger leaders. As a result, a mixture of tactics such as including civil disobedience, education, policy advocacy, and community organising are used. Disruptive actions grab headlines, the broader climate movement encompasses a wide spectrum of tactics. Environmental activists work together, combining their efforts to create a collective impact. Large-scale rallies, like those on Earth Day, bring people together under a broad banner. However, recent disruptive actions by campaign groups (e.g., throwing soup at art or disrupting sports events) have stirred strong opinions. Some extreme groups are moving away from disruptive tactics, prioritising attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks. While 66% of people in the UK support non-violent direct action to protect nature, not everyone supports deliberately disruptive or provocative protests. Protests and activism can motivate rapid, disruptive, and transformative changes recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, the benefit of reaching a large audience while potentially alienating them is debatable. People may not act even if they support a cause due to perceived irrelevance and lack of social norm support. They may doubt its effectiveness and may stand back if they are to blight their copy book by breaking the law.

Being an environmental activist plays a crucial role in raising awareness and pushing for change. However, attention grabbing protests making the news, is brief and a balance between impact and public support stays a significant ongoing challenge. Feelings about environmental activists range from admiration and hope to scepticism and criticism. Regardless, their advocacy is still essential for addressing the climate crisis.

Environmental Stewards

If you are an individual who views themselves as caretakers of the planet, responsible for conserving and safeguarding the environment, then you are an environmental steward. You may emphasise the responsible use and protection of the Earth’s resources through sustainable practices and the circular economy. Many people appreciate and respect these stewards for their commitment to preserving the planet. They recognise the importance of their role in keeping ecological balance and sustainability. As an environmental steward you may often inspire others through their actions, whether it is planting trees, cleaning up beaches, or advocating for conservation efforts.

Some individuals may criticise environmental stewards, perceiving their efforts as insufficient or misguided. They might question the impact of small-scale actions in the face of global environmental challenges. Sceptics may argue that individual efforts alone cannot solve complex issues like climate change. They might advocate for systemic changes and policy reforms instead. Others find hope and empowerment in the work of environmental stewards at the local and global level. They believe that collective small steps can lead to meaningful change over time. This leads to people seeing the role of humans as partners with the environment, and not fighting or controlling it.

In General

Each person’s actions matter, and by collectively caring for the planet, we can create a positive impact. Even small actions collectively create a ripple effect. By being mindful of our choices, we contribute to a more sustainable and resilient planet. You can educate yourself (via WEA of course ) and others. You can stay informed about environmental issues. Read, watch documentaries, and engage in discussions. Share the knowledge you have gained via WEA with others to create awareness and inspire action.

For Earth Day 2024, there are several actions you can take as an individual to contribute to a greener, more sustainable planet. For more detailed information and additional ways to get involved, check out the Earth Day 2024 Toolkit and learn more at Earthday.org.

What is going on at WEA to support Earth Day 2024?

WEA in its Green Curriculum aims to educate, inspire, and empower individuals and communities to act towards a more sustainable future. They look at the sciences behind climate change, how to deal with green issues, permaculture, and the more organic subjects about the environment. Under the Humanities and Science category in Nature, Ecology & Permaculture, WEA delivers several courses which will discuss the subject of this year’s Earth Day and beyond. With this newfound knowledge you too could support the environment in your own way.

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Lee Armon
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About the author

Lee Armon

Environmental Science & Sustainability Tutor

Lee is an Environmental Science and Sustainability Tutor at WEA. He is also a Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner. In other words, if you want to know anything about climate issues or sustainability, Lee is the person to go to!